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His Life and Times 


His Life and Times 








4 7 


Copyright 1947 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this 
boo\ may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the 
publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages and reproduce not 
more than three illustrations in a review to be printed in a magazine or news- 
paper. Manufactured in the United States of America. 



The most incomprehensible thing about the 
world is that it is comprehensible. 



THE PHOTOGRAPHS reproduced in this book were obtained with 
the friendly help of Miss Helen Dukas of Princeton, Professor 
Rudolph W. Ladenburg of Princeton University, Professor Har- 
low Shapley of Harvard University, and Dr. and Mrs. Gustav 
Bucky of New York. The diagrams were designed by Mr. Gerald 
Holton of Harvard University, and the Index compiled with 
the co-operation of Miss Martha Henderson of Cambridge,, 



1 Family Background 3 

2 Childhood 6 

3 Gymnasium in Munich 10 

4 Intellectual Interests 12 

5 Departure from Munich 15 

6 Student at Zurich 18 

7 Official of a Patent Office 21 


1 Philosophical Conception of Nature 25 

2 Organismic Physics of the Middle Ages 27 

3 Mechanistic Physics and Philosophy 28 

4 Relativity Principle in Newtonian Mechanics 30 

5 Ether as a Mechanical Hypothesis 32 

6 Remnants of Medieval Concepts in Mechanistic 

Physics 34 

7 Critics of the Mechanistic Philosophy 36 

8 Ernst Mach: The General Laws of Physics Are 

Summaries of Observations Organized 

in Simple Forms 38 

9 Henri Polncarl: The General Laws of Physics Are 

Free Creations of the Human Mind 40 

10 Positivistic and Pragmatic Movements 42 

11 Science at the End of the Nineteenth Century 45 


1 Life in Bern 49 

2 Interest in Philosophy 50 

3 The Fundamental Hypotheses of the Theory of 

Relativity 53 



4 Consequences of Einstein's Two Hypotheses 55 

5 Relativity of Time 57 

6 Relativity of Other Physical Concepts 63 

7 Equivalence of Mass and Energy 65 

8 Theory of Brownian Motion 67 

9 Origin of the Quantum Theory 69 
10 Theory of the Photon 71 


1 Professor at the University of Zurich 74 

2 Appointment to Prague 77 

3 Colleagues at Prague 80 

4 TA? Jews in Prague 83 

5 Einstein's Personality Portrayed in a Novel 85 

6 Einstein as a Professor 89 

7 Generalization of the Special Theory of Relativity 91 

8 Influence of Gravity on the Propagation of Light 94 

9 Departure from Prague 98 


1 The Solvay Congress 101 

2 Trip to Vienna 103 

3 Invitation to Berlin 106 

4 Einstein's Position in the Academic Life of Berlin 109 

5 Relationship with Colleagues 112 

6 Relationship with Students 116 

7 Outbrea^ of the World War 119 

8 German Science in the War 121 

9 Lz'jfe iVz Wartime 123 


1 New Theory of Gravitation 127 

2 .R0/<? 0/ Four-Dimensional Space 130 

3 Einstein Suggests Experimental Tests of His Theory 133 

4 Cosmological Problems 134 



5 Expeditions to Test Einstein s Theory 137 

6 Confirmation of the Theory 140 

7 Attitude of the Public 142 


1 Einstein's Political Attitude 147 

2 Anti-Semitism in Postwar Germany 149 

3 The Zionist Movement 151 

4 Einstein as a Pacifist 153 

5 Campaigns against Einstein 158 


1 Holland 167 

2 Czechoslova'kia 169 

3 Austria 174 

4 Invitation to the United States 176 

5 Reception by the American People 178 

6 England 187 

7 Einstein Tower and the Rathenau Murder 190 

8 France 194 

9 China, Japan, Palestine, and Spain 198 
10 Nobel Prize, Alleged Trip to Russia 201 


1 Einstein as a Teacher in Berlin 205 

2 Structure of the Atom 208 

3 Mechanics of the Atom 209 

4 Boh/s Complementarity Principle 212 

5 Einstein's Philosophy of Science 214 

6 C/m'/z^ Field Theory 218 


1 Einstein's Fiftieth Birthday 220 

2 Visiting Professor at Pasadena 224 



3 Racial Purging in German Universities 227 

4 Hostility toward Einstein 231 

5 Last Weeks in Europe 239 

6 Einstein's Views on Military Service 243 


1 Scientific Theories and Political Ideologies 248 

2 Pro-Fascist Interpretation 250 

3 Einstein's Theories Attached as Expressions of Jew- 

ish Mentality 251 

4 Attitude of the Soviet Philosophy toward Einstein 256 

5 Einstein's Theories as Arguments for Religion 262 


1 The Institute for Advanced Study 265 

2 Einstein's Decision to Join the Institute 268 

3 Einstein's Activities at the Institute 270 

4 Refugee Scholars 276 

5 Einstein's Attitude toward Religion 280 

6 Beginning of the Atomic Age 289 

7 Life in Princeton 293 

Index follows page 298 


facing page 

Einstein s paternal grandfather 18 

Einstein V paternal grandmother 18 

Einstein at four 19 

Einstein and his sister 19 

Einstein s graduating class 50 

Einstein and his first wife 51 

Einstein in 1905 51 

Einstein in the years of his greatest productivity (1913) 82 

Einstein and prominent physicists at Leyden, the 

Netherlands 83 

Einstein with Harvard scientists on the occasion when he 

received his honorary degree 114 

Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore 115 

Eclipse of the sun (1922) 140 

Einstein and Steinmetz 141 

Five winners of the Nobel Prize in physics 210 

Recent portrait of Einstein 211 

Einstein at the Michelson celebration in Berlin 242 

Michelson, Einstein, and Million 243 

Einstein in his Princeton office 295 

Einstein in his Princeton home 296 



His Life and Times 


i. Family Bacl(ground 

As far back as Einstein's memory extends, both his 
paternal and his maternal ancestors lived in small towns and vil- 
lages of Swabia in southwestern Germany. They were small 
merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans, and none of them had ever 
attracted attention in consequence of any intellectual achieve- 
ment. Einstein himself remarks on occasions when he is ques- 
tioned about his ancestors : "The circumstances under which they 
lived were much too restricted to permit them to distinguish 
themselves." They did not stand out in very bold relief against 
their environment. 

This background of southwestern Germany is very important 
in the understanding of Einstein's character. The Swabians 
merge almost imperceptibly with the French through the 
mediation of the neighboring Alsatians, and they are reflective, 
are practical in daily life, and participate joyfully in every kind 
of art and pleasure as well as in philosophical and religious specu- 
lations; but they are averse to any kind of mechanical order. 
Their nature is different from that of the sober, practical Prus- 
sians, interested in order and domination, and from that of the 
earthy, merry, sometimes rather coarse Bavarians. 

The differences in the character of these people are quite evi- 
dent from their dialects. The Swabian speech is melodic and 
flows slowly like a rippling, murmuring brook, unlike that of 
the Germans of the ruling class of officers and officials, which 
sounds like a bugle in a military camp. Neither is it like the cyni- 
cal bleating of the Berliner, critical of everything in heaven or 
on earth, nor like the pompously precise literary German of the 
pastors and professors. 

Elements of this friendly dialect are still to be heard in Ein- 
stein's speech, although it has now been greatly blurred and al- 
most obliterated by his travels in many different countries. In 
particular his speech contains an admixture of certain tones de- 
rived from the Swiss, which is indeed related to the dialect of 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

southwestern Germany, but lias a somewhat rougher tone. But 
anyone listening to the speech of Einstein's second wife, who Is 
descended from the same family as her husband, could still hear 
the genuine, pleasantly agreeable Swabian idiom. For her he 
was always "Albertle," the land was "landlc" the city (Stadi) 
"Stddtle" Everything received the diminutive suffix "le" which 
gives the dialect a quality of tenderness and affection. 

The fact that Einstein's ancestors were Jewish made a dif- 
ference, but not to so large an extent as one might expect. Dur- 
ing the period when his parents were growing up, the Jews in 
these small towns of Swabia did not differ greatly from the rest 
of the population in their mode and way of life. They no longer 
clung so firmly to their complicated customs and usages, which 
rendered difficult the growth of any intimacy between them and 
the rest of the population; and with the disintegration of these 
barriers they tended, to an ever increasing degree, to lose their 
position as a separate and unique group. The life of the Jews 
in these districts was not similar to that in Berlin, where there 
was a class of rich, educated Jews, who themselves developed 
a specific variant of Berlin culture. There was none of this in 
the small Swabian towns. Here the Jews, like the other inhab- 
itants, led a quiet life, associated with their natural environ- 
ment, and were but little influenced by the nervous hustle and 
bustle of the metropolis. 

In progressive circles at this time the reading of the Bible and 
other books dealing with the doctrines of the Jews was no longer 
the only source of truth. The Bible was read like other belles- 
lettres and edifying literature, and in Jewish families the classi- 
cal German authors appeared beside the prophets as teachers 
of morality and conduct. Schiller, Lessing, and Heine were 
honored like the preacher Solomon and the Book of Job. Fried- 
rich Schiller particularly, with his moral, almost Biblical pathos 
and glorification of a general love of mankind, became ex- 
tremely popular among Jewish families and was an important 
element in the education of their children. That he was a Swa- 
bian was another reason for regarding him as something of a 
close relative. In Einstein's family this Schiller cult and the 
admiration for the Enlightenment, which was bound up with 
it, also played a large part in the training of the younger gen- 

The writer Berthold Auerbach, who was active between 1840 
and 1870, is perhaps characteristic of the life and intellectual 
temper of the Jews in Swabia in the time of Einstein's parents 

Einstein^s Youth and Training 

and grandparents. He was the first to portray the daily life of 
the peasants of the Black Forest. These Schwarzwalder Dorfge- 
schichten (Tales of the Blac% Forest} are probably somewhat 
too Idealized and artificial for present-day taste, but they were 
considered by contemporaries to be a gratifying counterpoise 
to what was later called "Berlin gutter literature" and was re- 
garded as a characteristic contribution of the Jews to German 

It must also be mentioned that after 1871, as a result of the 
Franco-Prussian War, Prussia became the predominant power 
in Germany, and has profoundly affected and influenced the 
character of the Germans. The unification of the majority of 
the German tribes and the restoration of a powerful German 
Empire was not initiated by the intellectual class. Writers and 
scholars had long dreamed and sung of this goal, but they had 
hoped that, as the Swablan poet Uhland put it, "the Imperial 
crown of the new Germany would be anointed with a drop of 
democratic oil." But the dream did not come true. Bismarck 
carried out his work not with "democratic oil/* but with "blood 
and iron," and with methods that were opposed by all the in- 
tellectually progressive groups in Germany. Furthermore, the 
new Germany did not arise from the national elements possess- 
ing an older culture: the Swabians, Rhinelanders, and Austrians 
who had produced Schiller, Goethe, Mozart, and Beethoven. 
The rulers came from the tribes of the east, which were com- 
posed of those who had settled on soil won by conquering, 
Germanizing, and partially exterminating the original Slavic 
population, and of those descended from the subjugated tribes. 
They thus formed an amalgamation of oppressors and oppressed 
well able to command and obey. 

This situation placed the intellectual groups of all Germany, 
and particularly those of the older, cultural sections, In an am- 
biguous and partially mortifying position. They could not avoid 
admitting that the methods of the new rulers were more effective 
than their own, since they had been so successful; yet they could 
not overcome their aversion to the adoration of force and the 
glorification of order as ends in themselves. Such an empty 
mechanical arrangement of life was repugnant to them, with 
their inclination and aptitude for art and science. The new mas- 
ters were not to their liking, but they were compelled to admire 
and to some extent to imitate them. The German scholars ac- 
quired a feeling of inferiority toward the Prussian officers, and 
learned to restrict themselves to their own "subject," to leave 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

public life to the ruling group as their "subject/' and to stand 
at attention, even intellectually, at the sound of a command- 
ing voice. 

All this was equally true of the Jews. They, too, admired the 
new Empire and the energetic methods of its rulers. Even 
though in their homes they cultivated the intellectual tradition 
of the Jews and of the German classical period, yet in public 
life they tried to assimilate themselves to the ruling class in con- 
duct and ideas. 

Only for those who were strong enough not to accord recog- 
nition to outward success and who could not be compensated by 
any external manifestation of power for the loss of freedom and 
the cultural atmosphere was it possible to maintain an inde- 
pendent attitude and to resist the prevailing trend. We shall see 
that from his youth Einstein belonged to these people. Even 
though later he frequently came into conflict with the prevail- 
ing tendencies in Germany, yet he always retained a certain 
attachment for his Swabian homeland and its people. 

2. Childhood 

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 at Ulm, 
a middle-sized city in the Swabian part of Bavaria. This city is 
of no significance in his life, however, since a year after his birth 
the family moved to Munich. A year later a daughter was born 
and there were no other children. Munich, the city in which 
Albert spent his youth, was the political and intellectual center 
of southern Germany. Thus the family had already departed 
from the romantic nooks of Swabia and had made a transition 
to a more urban life. Their house, however, was a cottage sur- 
rounded by a large garden in the suburbs. Albert's father, Her- 
mann Einstein, had a small electrochemical factory that he 
operated with the aid of his brother, who lived with the family. 
The former attended to the commercial side of the enterprise, 
while the latter acted as technical director. 

Hermann Einstein was an optimistic person who enjoyed life. 
He was not a particularly good business man and was frequently 
unsuccessful, but such failures did not change his general out- 
look on life. His mode of life and his Weltanschauung differed 
in no respect from those of the average citizen in that locality. 
When his work was done, he liked to go on outings with his 


Einstein's Youth and Training 

family into the beautiful country around Munich, to the roman- 
tic lakes and mountains, and he was fond of stopping at the 
pleasant, comfortable Bavarian taverns, with their good beer, 
radishes, and sausages. Of the traditional Jewish fondness for 
reading edifying literature he had retained only a love for Ger- 
man poetry, especially that of Schiller and Heine. The dietary 
laws and other customary usages of the Jewish community were 
to him only an ancient superstition, and in his house there was 
no trace of any Jewish custom. Or, to put it more concisely, 
the ancient customs themselves had disappeared, but several 
humane usages connected with them were retained. For in- 
stance, every Thursday the Einstein family invited a poor Jew- 
ish student from Russia to share their midday meal with them 
a reflection, no doubt, of the old Sabbath custom. Similarly, 
their preference for the dramas and poems of Schiller, replete 
with moral pathos., was a substitute for the reading of the Bible. 
In his political views, too, Einstein's father, like most others, was 
afraid of the dominant Prussians, but admired the new German 
Empire, its Chancellor Bismarck, General Moltke, and the old 
Emperor Wilhelm I. 

Einstein's mother, born Pauline Koch, was of a more serious 
and artistic nature, with a fine sense of humor. But the rather 
meager material conditions under which she lived led her to be 
satisfied with a tolerably secure existence for herself and her 
children. She found much happiness and consolation in her 
music, and when engineers from the factory dropped in for an 
evening visit, they accompanied her on the piano. Above all she 
loved German classical music, especially Beethoven's piano 

The uncle who lived with the family was a man whose interest 
in the more refined aspects of intellectual life was greater than 
that of the father. He was a trained engineer, and it was from 
him that Albert received his first impulsions in mathematics. 

There can be no doubt that this origin in a provincial, semi- 
rural milieu was of the greatest significance for Albert Einstein's 
entire psychological development. He has never become a com- 
pletely urban person. He was always somewhat afraid of Berlin 
and later also of New York. Connected with this attitude is a 
certain trait that characterizes his artistic taste and that certainly 
appeared old-fashioned to modern Berliners. Einstein's prefer- 
ence for the German classics in literature as well as in music was 
expressed at a time when the intellectual circles of Berlin de- 
clared that such tastes had long since been superseded. His 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

predilection for Schiller is a particularly characteristic feature, 
by which one recognizes a member of a culture not that of 
twentieth-century Berlin. 

On the whole, little Albert was no child prodigy. Indeed, it 
was a very long time before he learned to speak, and his parents 
began to be afraid that he was abnormal Finally the child did 
begin to speak, but he was always taciturn and never inclined to 
enter into the games that nursemaids play with children in order 
to keep both the children and themselves in good humor. A gov- 
erness entrusted with Albert's childhood training even dubbed 
him Pater Langweil (Father Bore). He did not like any strenu- 
ous physical exertions such as running and jumping, perhaps 
for the reason that he considered himself too weak for such 
activities. From the very beginning he was inclined to separate 
himself from children of his own age and to engage in day- 
dreaming and meditative musing. 

He disliked particularly playing at being a soldier, which the 
children of most countries engage in with the greatest delight, 
and which especially in the Germany of Bismarck and Moltke 
was imbued with an almost mythical splendor. When the sol- 
diers marched through the streets of Munich accompanied by 
the roll of drums and the shrill of fifes, a combination, charac- 
teristic of the German army, that gives the music an exciting, 
compelling rhythm and a wild tonal quality, and when the pave- 
ments and the windowpanes rattled from the pawing of the 
horses' hoofs, the children enthusiastically joined the parade and 
tried to keep in step with the soldiers. But when little Albert, 
accompanied by his parents, passed such a parade, he began to 
cry. In Munich parents would often tell their children : "Some 
day, when you grow big, you, too, can march in the parade," and 
most boys were spurred to greater and more ambitious efforts by 
this prospect. Albert, however, said to his parents : "When I grow 
up I don't want to be one of those poor people." When the ma- 
jority saw the rhythm of a happy movement, he observed the 
coercion imposed upon the soldiers ; he saw the parade as a move- 
ment of people compelled to be machines. 

At this time Einstein apparently already revealed one of his 
most characteristic traits: his intractable hatred of any form of 
coercion arbitrarily imposed by one group of people on another. 
He detested the idea of the oppressor preventing the oppressed 
from following their inclinations and developing their natural 
talents, and turning them into automatons. On the other hand 
Albert was also conscious of the natural laws of the universe; he 


Einstein's Youth and Training 

felt that there are great eternal laws of nature. As a child he was 
able to understand them only in the form of traditional religion, 
and felt attracted toward it and its ritual precepts, which sym- 
bolized a feeling for the laws of the universe. He was offended by 
the fact that his father always scoffed at religion, and he regarded 
this derision as resulting from a type of thought that is in a cer- 
tain sense disharmonious and refuses to submit to the eternal 
laws of nature. This dual attitude hatred for the arbitrary laws 
of man and devotion to the laws of nature has accompanied 
Einstein throughout his life and explains many of his actions 
that have been considered peculiar and inconsistent. 

At that time the German elementary schools were conducted 
on a denominational basis, the clergy of each religious group con- 
trolling its schools. Since Munich was for the most part Catholic, 
most of the schools were naturally of that denomination. Nomi- 
nally Einstein's parents probably adhered to the Jewish religion, 
but they were not sufficiently interested in a Jewish education 
to send their children to a Jewish school since there was none 
near their home and it would have been expensive. His parents 
may even have felt that by sending their boy to a Catholic school 
he would come into more intimate contact with non-Jewish 
children. At any rate, Albert attended the Catholic elementary 
school, where he was the only Jew in his class. 

Young Albert experienced no unpleasantness because of this 
situation. There was only a slight feeling of strangeness resulting 
naturally from the different religious traditions, and this factor 
was definitely of secondary significance and did not increase to 
any marked degree his difficulty in forming intimate friendships 
with his fellow pupils. The difficulty was due fundamentally to 
his character. 

Albert received regular instruction in the Catholic religion and 
he derived a great deal of pleasure from it. He learned this sub- 
ject so well that he was able to help his Catholic classmates when 
they could not answer the teacher's questions immediately. Ein- 
stein has no recollection of any objection having arisen to the 
participation of a Jewish pupil in Catholic religious instruction. 
On one occasion the teacher attempted a somewhat strange kind 
of object lesson by bringing a large nail to the class and telling 
the pupils: "The nails with which Christ was nailed to the cross 
looked like this." But he did not add, as sometimes happens, that 
the Crucifixion was the work of the Jews. Nor did the idea enter 
the minds of the students that because of this they must change 
their relations with their classmate Albert. Nevertheless Einstein 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

found this kind of teaching rather uncongenial., but only because 
it recalled the brutal act connected with it and because he sensed 
correctly that the vivid portrayal of brutality does not usually 
intensify any sentiments of antagonism to it but rather awakens 
latent sadistic tendencies. 

It was very characteristic of young Einstein's religious feeling 
that he saw no noticeable difference between what he learned 
of the Catholic religion at school and the rather vaguely remem- 
bered remnants of the Jewish tradition with which he was famil- 
iar at home. These elements merged in him into a sense of the 
existence of lawfulness in the universe and in the representa- 
tion of this harmony by means of different kinds of symbols, 
which he judged rather on the basis of their aesthetic value than 
as symbols of the "truth." 

On the whole, however, Einstein felt that school was not very 
different from his conception of barracks that is, a place where 
one was subject to the power of an organization that exercised a 
mechanical pressure on the individual, leaving no area open 
within which he might carry on some activity suited to his na- 
ture. The students were required to learn mechanically the mate- 
rial presented to them, and the main emphasis was placed on the 
inculcation of obedience and discipline. The pupils were re- 
quired to stand at attention when addressed by the teacher and 
were not supposed to speak unless asked a question. Independent 
questions addressed by students to the teacher and informal con- 
versations between them were rare. 

Even when Albert was nine years old and in the highest grade 
of the elementary school, he still lacked fluency of speech,, and 
everything he said was expressed only after thorough considera- 
tion and reflection. Because of his conscientiousness in not mak- 
ing any false statements or telling lies he was called Biedermeier 
(Honest John) by his classmates. He was regarded as an amiable 
dreamer. As yet no evidence of any special talent could be dis- 
covered, and his mother remarked occasionally: "Maybe lie will 
become a great professor some day." But perhaps she meant only 
that he might develop into some sort of eccentric. 

3. Gymnasium in Munich 

At the age of ten, young Einstein left the elementary 
school and entered the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich, In Ger- 


Einstein's Youth and Training 

many the period between the ages of ten and eighteen, the years 
that are of decisive importance in the intellectual development 
of adolescents, are spent in the gymnasium. The aim of these 
institutions was to give the young people a general education 
based upon the acquisition of ancient Greek and Roman cul- 
ture, and for this purpose most of the time was devoted to learn- 
ing Latin and Greek grammar. Because of the complications of 
these subjects, and since the students were required to learn all 
the rules pedantically, little time was left to acquire a real under- 
standing of the culture of antiquity. Furthermore, it would have 
been a much more difficult task for the majority of the teachers. 
It was claimed that the process of learning the grammar of one 
or two complicated languages is an indispensable training for 
the mind and a disciplining of the intellect hardly attainable 
otherwise. For Einstein, however, aspiring to learn the laws of the 
universe, this mechanical learning of languages was particularly 
irksome, and this kind of education seemed very much akin to 
the methods of the Prussian army, where a mechanical discipline 
was achieved by repeated execution of meaningless orders. 

Later, when speaking about his impressions of school, Ein- 
stein frequently said: "The teachers in the elementary school 
appeared to me like sergeants, and the gymnasium teachers like 
lieutenants." The sergeants in the German army of Wilhelm II 
were notorious for their coarse and often brutal behavior toward 
the common soldiers, and it was well known that, with the troops 
completely at their mercy, sadistic instincts developed in them. 
The lieutenants, on the other hand, being members of the upper 
class, did not come into direct contact with the men, but they 
exerted their desire for power in an indirect manner. Thus when 
Einstein compared his teachers to sergeants and lieutenants, he 
regarded their tasks to be the inculcation of a certain body of 
knowledge and the enforcing of mechanical order upon the stu- 
dents. The pupils did not view the teachers as older, more ex- 
perienced friends who could be of assistance to them in dealing 
with various problems of life, but rather as superiors whom they 
feared and tried to predispose favorably to themselves by be- 
having as submissively as possible. 

There was one teacher in the gymnasium, named Ruess, who 
really tried to introduce the students to the spirit of ancient cul- 
ture. He also showed them the influence of these ancient ideas in 
the classical German poets and in modern German culture. Ein- 
stein, with his strong feeling for everything artistic and for all 
ideas that brought him closer to the hidden harmony of the 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

world, could hardly have enough of this teacher. He aroused in 
Hm. a strong interest in the German classical writers, Schiller 
and Goethe, as well as in Shakspere, The periods devoted to the 
reading and discussion of Hermann und Dorothea, Goethe's 
half-romantic, half-sentimental love story written in a period of 
the greatest political unrest, remained deeply engraved in Ein- 
stein's memory. In the gymnasium the students who had not 
completed their assignments were punished by being made to 
stay after school under the supervision of one of the teachers. In 
view of the tedious and boring character of the ordinary instruc- 
tion, these extra periods were regarded as a real torture. But 
when Ruess conducted the extra period, Einstein was happy to 
be punished. 

The fact that in the midst of all the mechanical drilling he was 
sometimes able to spend an hour in an artistic atmosphere made 
a great impression on him. The recollection of this class re- 
mained very vivid in his mind, but he never stopped to consider 
what sort of impression he had made on the teacher. Many years 
later, when he was already a young professor at Zurich, Einstein 
passed through Munich and, overcome by his memories of the 
only man who had really been a teacher to him, decided to pay 
him a visit. It seemed obvious to him that the teacher would be 
happy to learn that one of his students had become a professor. 
But when Einstein arrived at Ruess's quarters dressed in the care- 
less manner that was characteristic of him then as well as later,, 
Ruess had no recollection of any student named Einstein and 
could not comprehend what the poorly dressed young man 
wanted of him. The teacher could only imagine that by claiming 
to be one of his former pupils the young man thought he could 
borrow money from him. Apparently it never entered Ruess's 
mind that a student could pay him a visit to express a feeling of 
gratitude for his teaching. It is possible that his teaching had not 
been so good as it appeared in Einstein's memory and perhaps he 
had only imagined it. But in any case the visit was very embar- 
rassing for Einstein and he departed as quickly as possible. 

4. Intellectual Interests 

When Einstein was five years old his father showed 
iim a pocket compass* The mysterious property of the iron 
needle that always pointed in the same direction no matter how 


Einstein's Youth and Training 

the compass case was turned made a very great impression on 
the young child. Although there was nothing visible to make the 
needle move, he concluded that something that attracts and 
turns bodies in a particular direction must exist in space that is 
considered empty. This was one of the impressions which later 
led Einstein to reflect on the mysterious properties of empty 

As he grew up, his interest in natural science was further 
aroused by the reading of popular scientific books. A Russian 
Jewish student who ate at Einstein's home on Thursdays called 
his attention to Aaron Bernstein's Naturwissenschaftliche Volfys- 
bucher (Popular Boo\s on Natural Science}, which were widely 
read by laymen interested in science about that time. These books 
discussed animals, plants, their mutual interdependence, and 
the hypotheses concerning their origin; they dealt with stars, 
meteors, volcanoes, earthquakes, climate, and many other topics, 
never leaving out of sight the greater interrelation of nature. 
Soon Einstein was also an enthusiastic reader of such books as 
Biichner's Kraft und Stoff (Force and Matter}., which attempted 
to gather together the scientific knowledge of the time and to 
organize it into a sort of complete philosophical conception of 
the universe. The advocates of this view, frequently called "ma- 
terialism" although it should rather be called "naturalism," 
wanted to understand and explain all celestial and terrestrial 
occurrences by analogy with the natural sciences and were par- 
ticularly opposed to any religious conception of the nature of 
the universe. 

Today such books as Biichner's Kraft und Stoff are considered 
superficial and we may wonder how at that time young people 
like Einstein who were capable of independent thought could 
have been stirred by them. Yet if we have any sense of historical 
values and justice, we should ask ourselves what recent books 
are to be regarded as the analogues of those earlier works. In 
reply we can point to such books as Sir James Jeans' s The Mys- 
terious Universe. Probably a really critical judge would not be 
able to say that Biichner's book is more superficial than those 
of similar contemporary writers. At any rate, we find a very 
good popular presentation of the scientific results themselves, 
and a rather vague philosophical interpretation, which may be 
accepted or not according to one's taste. 

Einstein's interest in mathematics was also aroused at home 
and not at school. It was his uncle and not the teacher at the 
gymnasium who gave him his first understanding of algebra. 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

"It is a merry science/' he told the boy; "when the animal that 
we are hunting cannot be caught, we call it x temporarily and 
continue to hunt it until it is bagged." With such instruction, 
Albert found a great deal of pleasure in solving simple problems 
by hitting upon new ideas instead of just using a prescribed 

He was impressed most, however, when at about the age of 
twelve he obtained for the first time a systematic textbook on 
geometry. It was a book to be used in a class that had just started, 
and, like many children who are curious about the new subjects 
they are going to take up in school, he tried to delve into the 
subject before it acquired the unpleasant and irksome quality 
that teachers generally imparted. Having begun to read the 
book, he was unable to put it down. The clarity of the exposition 
and the proof given for every statement, as well as the close 
connection between the diagrams and the reasoning, impressed 
him with a kind of orderliness and straightforwardness that he 
had not encountered before. The world with its disorder and 
uncleanliness suddenly appeared to him to contain also an ele- 
ment of intellectual and psychological order and beauty. 

Ever since Albert was six years old his parents had insisted 
that he take violin lessons. At first this was only another kind 
of compulsion added to the coercion of the school, as he had the 
misfortune to be taught by teachers for whom playing was 
nothing but a technical routine, and he was unable to enjoy it. 
But when he was about thirteen years old he became acquainted 
with Mozart's sonatas and fell in love with their unique grace- 
fulness. He recognized that his technique was not equal to the 
performance of these compositions in the light-handed manner 
necessary to bring out their essential beauty, and he attempted 
repeatedly to express their light, carefree grace in his playing. 
In this way, as a result of his efforts to express a particular emo- 
tional mood as clearly as possible and not through technical 
exercises, he acquired a certain skill in playing the violin and a 
love for music, which he has retained throughout his life. The 
feeling of profound emotion that he experienced in reading the 
geometry books is perhaps to be compared only with his ex- 
perience as a fourteen-year-old boy when for the first time he 
was able to take an active part in a chamber-music performance. 

At the age of fourteen, while he was still reading Biichner's 
books, Einstein's attitude toward religion experienced an im- 
portant change. While in the elementary school he had received 
Catholic instruction, in the gymnasium he received instruction 


Einstein's Youth and Training 

in the Jewish religion, which was provided for the students of 
this sect. Young Einstein was greatly stirred by the comments 
of the teachers of religion on the Proverbs of Solomon and the 
other parts of the Old Testament dealing with ethics. This ex- 
perience made a permanent impression and left him with a pro- 
found conviction of the great ethical value of the Biblical 
tradition. On the other hand Einstein saw how the students were 
compelled to attend religious services in Jewish temples whether 
they had any interest in them or not. He felt that this did not 
differ from the coercion by means of which soldiers were driven 
to drill on the parade ground, or students to unravel subtly 
invented grammatical puzzles. He was no longer able to regard 
ritual customs as poetic symbols of the position of man in the 
universe; instead he saw in them, more and more, superstitious 
usages preventing man from thinking independently. There 
arose in Einstein an aversion to the orthodox practices of the 
Jewish or any other traditional religion, as well as to attendance 
at religious services, and this he has never lost. He made up his 
mind that after graduation from the gymnasium he would aban- 
don the Jewish religious community and not become a member 
of any other religious group, because he wanted to avoid having 
his personal relationship to the laws of nature arranged accord- 
ing to some sort of mechanical order. 

5. Departure from Munich 

When Einstein was fifteen an event occurred that 
diverted his life into a new path. His father became involved in 
business difficulties, as a result of which it appeared advisable to 
liquidate his factory in Munich and seek his fortune elsewhere. 
His pleasure-loving, optimistic temperament led him to migrate 
to a happier country, to Milan in Italy, where he established a 
similar enterprise. He wanted Albert, however, to complete Ms 
studies at the gymnasium. At this time it was axiomatic for 
every middle-class German that an educated person must have 
a diploma from a gymnasium, since only this diploma entitled 
him to become a student at a university. And as a course of study 
leading to a degree was in turn necessary before one could 
obtain a position in one of the intellectual professions, Einstein, 
like all the others, felt compelled to complete his course at the 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

In the field of mathematics Einstein was far ahead of his fellow 
students, but by no means so in classical languages. He felt 
miserable at having to occupy himself with things in which he 
was not interested but which he was supposed to learn only 
because he had to take an examination in them. This feeling of 
dissatisfaction grew greater when his parents departed and left 
him in a boarding-house. He felt himself a stranger among his 
fellow students and regarded their insistence upon his participa- 
tion in all forms of athletic activities as inconsiderate and coarse. 
He was probably friendly to all, but his skeptical attitude toward 
the organization and the spirit of the school as a whole was quite 
clear to the teachers and students and aroused a sense of uneasi- 
ness in many of them. 

As he developed into an independently thinking man, the 
thought of having to submit for some time yet to the pedagogical 
methods of the gymnasium became more and more unbearable. 
Although he was good-natured and modest in personal inter- 
course, nevertheless then as well as later he stubbornly defended 
his intellectual life against the entry of any external constraint. 
He found it more and more intolerable to be compelled to 
memorize rules mechanically, and he even preferred to suffer 
punishment rather than to repeat something he had learned by 
rote without understanding. 

After half a year of suffering in solitude Einstein tried to leave 
the school and follow his parents to Italy. To Einstein, living 
in Munich, which was dominated by the cold, rigid Prussian 
spirit, colorful Italy, with its art- and music-loving people living 
a more natural and less mechanized life, appeared to be a beckon- 
ing paradise. He worked out a plan that would enable him to 
run away from school, at least for a while, without forfeiting his 
chances of continuing his studies. Since his knowledge of mathe- 
matics was far ahead of the requirements of the gymnasium, he 
hoped that he might perhaps be admitted to a foreign institute 
of technology even without a diploma. He may even have 
thought that, once he was out of Germany, everything would 
take care of itself. 

From a physician he obtained a certificate stating that be- 
cause of a nervous breakdown it was necessary for him to leave 
school for six months to stay with his parents in Italy, where 
he could recuperate. He also obtained a statement from his 
mathematics teacher affirming that his extraordinary knowledge 
of mathematics qualified him for admission to an advanced insti- 
tution for the study of such subjects. His departure from the gym- 


Einstein's Youth and Training 

nasium was ultimately much easier than he had anticipated. 
One day his teacher summoned him and told him that it would 
be desirable if he were to leave the school Astonished at the turn 
of events, young Einstein asked what offense he was guilty of. 
The teacher replied: "Your presence in the class destroys the 
respect of the students." Evidently Einstein's inner aversion to 
the constant drill had somehow manifested itself in his behavior 
toward his teachers and fellow students. 

On arriving at Milan he told his father that he wanted to re- 
nounce his German citizenship. His father, however, kept his 
own, so that the situation was rather unusual. Also, since Ein- 
stein could not acquire any other citizenship immediately, he 
became stateless. Simultaneously he renounced his legal adher- 
ence to the Jewish religious community. 

The first period of his stay in Italy was an ecstasy of joy. He 
was enraptured by the works of art in the churches and in the 
art galleries, and he listened to the music that resounded in every 
corner of this country, and to the melodic voices of its inhabit- 
ants. He hiked through the Apennines to Genoa. He observed 
with delight the natural grace of the people, who performed the 
most ordinary acts and said the simplest things with a taste and 
delicacy that to young Einstein appeared in marked contrast 
to the prevalent demeanor in Germany. There he had seen 
human beings turned into spiritually broken but mechanically 
obedient automatons with all the naturalness driven out of them; 
here he found people whose behavior was not so much deter- 
mined by artificial, externally imposed rules, but was rather in 
consonance with their natural impulses. To him their actions 
appeared more in accord with the laws of nature than with those 
of any human authority. 

This paradisal state of delight, however, could exist only as 
long as Einstein was able to forget completely as he did for a 
while * the urgent demands that the practical necessities of life 
made upon him. The need for a practical occupation was par- 
ticularly urgent since his father was again unsuccessful in Italy. 
Neither in Milan nor in Pavia did his electrical shop succeed. 
Despite his optimism and happy outlook on life, he was com- 
pelled to tell Albert: "I can no longer support you. You will have 
to take up some profession as soon as possible." The pressure 
that had hardly been released appeared to have returned. Had 
his departure from the gymnasium been a disastrous step ? How 
could he return to the regular path leading to a profession ? 

Einstein's childhood experience with the magnetic compass 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

had aroused his curiosity in the. mysterious laws of nature^ and 
his experience with the geometry book had developed in him a 
passionate love for everything that is comprehensible in terms 
of mathematics and a feeling that there was an element in the 
world that was completely comprehensible to human beings. 
Theoretical physics was the field that attracted him and to which 
he wanted to devote his life. He wanted to study this subject 
because it deals with the question: how can immeasurably com- 
plicated occurrences observed in nature be reduced to simple 
mathematical formuk? 

With his interest in the pure sciences of physics and mathe- 
matics and the training required for a more practical profession, 
together with the fact that his father was engaged in a technical 
occupation, it seemed best that young Einstein should study the 
technological sciences. Furthermore., since he lacked a diploma 
from a gymnasium but had an excellent knowledge of mathe- 
matics, he believed that he could more easily obtain admission 
to a technical institution than to a regular university. 

6. Student at Zurich 

At that time the most famous technical school in cen- 
tral Europe outside of Germany was the Swiss Federal Poly- 
technic School in Zurich. Einstein went there and took the 
entrance examination. He showed that his knowledge of mathe- 
matics was far ahead of that of most of the other candidates, but 
his knowledge of modern languages and the descriptive natural 
sciences (zoology and botany) was inadequate, and he was not 
admitted. Now the blow had fallen. What he had feared ever 
since leaving Munich had come to pass and it looked as though 
he would be unable to continue in the direction he had planned. 

The director of the Polytechnic, however, had been impressed 
by Einstein's knowledge of mathematics and advised him to 
obtain the required diploma in a Swiss school, the excellent, pro- 
gressively conducted cantonal school in the small city of Aarau. 
This prospect did not appeal very much to Einstein, who feared 
that he would again become an inmate of a regimented institu- 
tion like the gymnasium in Munich. 

Einstein went to Aarau with considerable misgiving and ap- 
prehension, but he was pleasantly surprised. The cantonal school 
was conducted in a very different spirit from that of the Munich 


Einstein* s Youth and Training 

gymnasium. There was no militaristic drilling, and the teaching 
was aimed at training the students to think and work inde- 
pendently. The teachers were always available to the students 
for friendly discussions or counsel. The students were not re- 
quired to remain in the same room all the time, and there were 
separate rooms containing instruments, specimens, and acces- 
sories for every subject. For physics and chemistry there were 
apparatuses with which the student could experiment. For 
zoology there were a small museum and microscopes for observ- 
ing minute organisms, and for geography there were maps and 
pictures of foreign countries. 

Here Einstein lost his aversion to school. He became more 
friendly with his fellow students. In Aarau he lived with a 
teacher of the school who had a son and a daughter with whom 
Einstein made trips to the mountains. He also had an oppor- 
tunity to discuss problems of public life in detail with people 
who, in accordance with the Swiss tradition, were greatly inter- 
ested in such affairs. He became acquainted with a point of view 
different from that which he had been accustomed to in 

After one year at the cantonal school Einstein obtained his 
diploma and was thereupon admitted to the Polytechnic School 
in Zurich without further examination. In the meantime, how- 
ever, he had abandoned the plan of taking up a practical profes- 
sion. His stay at Aarau had shown him that a position as a teacher 
of physics and mathematics at an advanced school would per- 
mit him to pursue his favorite studies and at the same time enable 
him to make a modest living. The Polytechnic had a depart- 
ment for training teachers in physical and mathematical sub- 
jects, and Einstein now turned to this pursuit 

During the year at the cantonal school Einstein had become 
certain that the actual object of his interest was physics and not 
pure mathematics as he Had sometimes believed wHile still in 
Munich. His aim was to discover the simplest rules by which, to 
comprehend natural laws. Unfortunately, at that time it was 
just this teaching of physics that was rather outdated and pedan- 
tic at the Polytechnic. The students were merely taught the physi- 
cal principles that had stood the test of technical applications 
and been accepted in all the textbooks. There was little if any 
objective approach to natural phenomena, or logical discussion 
of the simple comprehensive principles underlying them. 

Even though the lectures on physics were not marked by any 
profundity of thought, they did stimulate Einstein to read the 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

works of the great investigators in this field* Just about this time, 
at the end of the nineteenth century,, the development of physi- 
cal science had reached a turning-point. The theories of this 
period had been written in stimulating form by the outstanding 
scientists. Einstein devoured these classics of theoretical physics, 
the works of Helmholtz, Kirchoff, Boltzmann, Maxwell, and 
Hertz. Day and night Einstein buried himself in these books, 
from which he learned the art of erecting a mathematical frame- 
work on which to build up the structure of physics. 

The teaching of mathematics was on a much higher level. 
Among the instructors was Hermann Minkowski, a Russian by 
birth, who, although still a young man, was already regarded as 
one of the most original mathematicians of his time- He was 
not a very good lecturer, however, and Einstein was not much 
interested in his classes. It was just at this time that Einstein lost 
interest in pure mathematics. He believed that the most primitive 
mathematical principles would be adequate to formulate the 
fundamental laws of physics, the task that he had set for himself. 
Not until later did it become clear to him that the very opposite 
was the case: that for a mathematical formulation of his idea 
concepts derived from a very highly developed type of mathe- 
matics were required. And it was Minkowski, whose mathemati- 
cal lectures Einstein found so uninteresting, who put forth ideas 
for a mathematical formulation of Einstein's theories that pro- 
vided the germ for all future developments in the field. 

At this period the Polytechnic enjoyed a great international 
reputation and had a large number of students from foreign 
countries. Among them were many from eastern and southeast- 
ern Europe who could not or would not study in their native 
countries for political reasons, and hence Zurich became a place 
where future revolutions were nurtured. One of these with 
whom Einstein became acquainted was Friedrich Adler, from 
Austria. He was a thin, pale, blond young man who like other 
students from the east united within himself an intense devo- 
tion to his studies and a fanatical faith in the revolutionary de- 
velopment of society. He was the son of Viktor Adler, a leading 
Social Democrat politician of Vienna, who tried to keep his son 
out of politics by sending him to study physics at Zurich. 

Another of Einstein's acquaintances was Mileva Maritsch, a 
young woman from Hungary. Her mother tongue, however, 
was Serbian and she professed the Greek Orthodox religion. She 
belonged to that group of her people who lived in considerable 
numbers in southeastern Hungary and always carried on a vio- 


Einstein's Youth and Training 

lent struggle against the Magyar domination. Like many of the 
women students from eastern Europe, she paid attention only 
to her work and had few opportunities to attract the attention 
of men. She and Einstein found a common interest in their pas- 
sion for the study of the great physicists, and they spent a great 
deal of time together. For Einstein it had always been pleasant to 
think in society, or, better perhaps, to become aware of his 
thoughts by putting them into words. Even though Mileva 
Maritsch was extremely taciturn and rather unresponsive, Ein- 
stein in his zeal for his studies hardly noticed this. 

This student period at Zurich, which was so important for 
Einstein's mental development, was not such an easy time for 
him with regard to practical living. His father's financial situa- 
tion was so difficult that he could not contribute anything to his 
son's support, Einstein received one hundred Swiss francs 
monthly from a wealthy relative, but he had to put aside twenty 
of these every month to accumulate the fee necessary for the 
acquisition of Swiss citizenship, which he hoped to obtain soon 
after graduation. He did not experience any real material hard- 
ships, but on the other hand he could not afford any luxuries. 

7. Official of a Patent Office 

Einstein completed his studies just at the turn of the 
century and now faced the necessity of seeking a position. When 
a young man with extraordinary interest and ability in science 
has completed the regular course of study at a university or tech- 
nical academy, it is important and generally desirable for him 
to obtain further training to become an independent investigator 
by acting as assistant to a professor at a university. In this way he 
learns the methods both of teaching and of making scientific 
investigations by working under an experienced person. Since 
this appeared to be the appropriate path for him, Einstein ap- 
plied for such a position. It became evident, however, that the 
same professors who had praised his scientific interest and talent 
so highly had no intention whatever of taking him on as an 
assistant. Nor did he receive any direct explanation of this 

With no possibility of a teaching position at the Polytechnic, 
the only alternative was to look for one in a secondary school. 
Here again., despite excellent letters of recommendation from 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

his professors, lie was unsuccessful The only thing he obtained 
was a temporary position in a technical vocational school at 
Winterthur, and after a few months he was again unemployed. 

It was now 1901. Einstein was twenty-one and had become a 
Swiss citizen. Through a newspaper he found that a gymnasium 
teacher in Schaffhausen, who maintained a boarding-house for 
students, was looking for a tutor for two boys. Einstein applied 
for the job and was hired. Thus he came to this small city on 
the Rhine whose famous waterfalls resounded throughout the 
vicinity and where numerous tourists stopped to see the natural 
phenomenon, which received three stars in the Baedeker. 

Einstein was not dissatisfied with his work. He enjoyed mold- 
ing the minds of young people and trying to find better peda- 
gogical methods than those he had been accustomed to in school. 
But he soon noticed that other teachers spoiled the good seed 
he sowed, and he asked that the teaching of the two boys be left 
completely in his hands. One can well imagine that the gym- 
nasium teacher who conducted the boarding-house regarded 
this request as a rebellion against his authority. He felt there was 
an atmosphere of revolt and discharged Einstein. By this action 
Einstein now realized that It was not only the students but 
teachers as well who were crushed and made pliable by the 
mechanical treadmill of the ordinary school. 

Einstein was again in a difficulty. All his efforts to find a teach- 
ing position failed despite the fact that he held a diploma from 
the Polytechnic and Swiss citizenship papers. He himself could 
not quite understand the reason for his failure. It may have been 
that he was not regarded as a genuine Swiss. With his recent 
citizenship, he was what the genuine Swiss patriots called a 
"paper Swiss." The fact that he was of Jewish ancestry caused 
additional difficulty in being accepted as a true Swiss. 

In the midst of this dark period there appeared a bright light. 
A fellow student of Einstein's at the Polytechnic, Marcel Gross- 
mann, introduced him to a man named Haller, the director of 
the patent office in Bern. He was a very broad-minded, intelligent 
man who knew that in every profession it is more important to 
have someone capable of independent thinking than a person 
trained in a particular routine. After a long interview he was 
convinced that although Einstein liad no previous experience 
with technical inventions, he was a suitable person for a position 
in the patent office, and gave him a job. 

In many respects Einstein's removal to Bern was an important 
turning-point in his life. He now liad a position with a fixed 


Einstein's Youth and Training 

annual salary of about three thousand francs, a sum that at that 
time enabled him to live quite comfortably. He was able to spend 
his leisure hours, of which he had many, in scientific investiga- 
tion. He was in a position to think of marriage and of having a 

Soon after his arrival in Bern, Einstein married Mileva 
Maritsch, his fellow student at the Polytechnic. She was some- 
what older than he. Despite her Greek Orthodox background 
she was a free-thinker and progressive in her ideas, like most of 
the Serbian students. By nature she was reserved, and did not 
possess to any great degree the ability to get into intimate and 
pleasant contact with her environment. Einstein's very different 
personality, as manifested in the naturalness of his bearing and 
the interesting character of his conversation, often made her 
uneasy. There was something blunt and stern about her charac- 
ter. For Einstein life with her was not always a source of peace 
and happiness. When he wanted to discuss with her his ideas, 
which came to him in great abundance, her response was so 
slight that he was often unable to decide whether or not she was 
Interested. At first, however, he had the pleasure of living his 
own life with his family. Two sons were born in rapid succes- 
sion, and the elder was named Albert after his father. Einstein 
was very happy with his children. He liked to occupy himself 
with them, to tell them what went on in his mind; and he ob- 
served their reactions with great interest and pleasure. 

Einstein's work at the patent office was by no means uninter- 
esting. His job was to make a preliminary examination of the 
reported inventions. Most inventors are dilettantes, and many 
professionals are likewise unable to express their thoughts 
clearly. It was the function of the patent office to provide legal 
protection for inventions and inventors, and there had to be 
clearly formulated statements explaining the essential feature 
of each invention. Einstein had to put the applications for 
patents, which were frequently vaguely written, into a clearly 
defined form. He had to be able, above all, to pick out the basic 
ideas of the inventions from the descriptions. This was frequently 
not easy and it gave Einstein an opportunity to study thoroughly 
many ideas that appeared new and interesting. Perhaps it was 
this work that developed his unusual faculty of immediately 
grasping the chief consequence of every hypothesis presented, a 
faculty that has aroused admiration in so many people who have 
had an opportunity to observe him in scientific discussion. 

This occupation with inventions also kept awake in Einstein 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

an interest in the construction of scientific apparatus. There still 
exists an apparatus for measuring small electrical charges that 
he invented at this time. Such work was for him a kind of 
recreation from his abstract theoretical investigation in much 
the same way as chess and detective stories serve to relax other 
scientists. Quite a few mathematicians find amusement in the 
solution of chess problems and not in some sport or in the 
movies, and it may well be that a mathematical mind finds 
the best relaxation by occupying itself with problems that are 
not to be taken seriously but still require a modicum of logical 
thinking. Einstein does not like chess or detective stories, but 
he does like to think up all sorts of technical instruments and to 
discuss them with friends. Thus even today he is often in the 
company of his friend Dr. Bucky of New York, a well-known 
physician and specialist in the construction of X-ray machines, 
and together they have devised a mechanism for regulating auto- 
matically the exposure time of a photographic film depending 
on the illumination on it. Einstein's interest in such inventions 
depends not on its practical utility but on getting at the trick of 
the thing. 




i. Philosophical Conception of Nature 

The philosophical conception of nature that prevails 
in any given period always has a profound influence upon the 
development of physical science in that period. Throughout its 
history natural science has been cultivated according to two very 
diff erent points of view. The one viewpoint, which may be called 
"scientific/' has attempted to develop a system with which ob- 
served facts could be correlated and from which useful informa- 
tion could be obtained, while the other, which may be called 
"philosophical/ 5 has attempted to explain natural phenomena in 
terms of a specific historically sanctioned mode of exposition. 
This difference can best be illustrated in the theory of the motion 
of celestial bodies. In the sixteenth century the Copernican 
theory, which maintained that the earth moved around the sun, 
was useful in the correlation of the position of stars, but it was 
not considered "philosophically true," since this idea contra- 
dicted the philosophical conception of that time according to 
which the earth was at rest in the center of the universe. 

The philosophical conception itself, in the history of science, 
has suffered changes following revolutionary discoveries. Two 
main periods are outstanding. In the Middle Ages the under- 
standing of natural phenomena was sought in terms of anal- 
ogies with the behavior of animals and human beings. For 
instance, the motions of heavenly bodies and projectiles were 
described in terms of the action of living creatures. Let us call 
this view the organismic conception. The far-reaching investi- 
gations in mechanics by Galileo and Newton in the seventeenth 
century caused the first great revolution in physical thought and 
originated the conception of the mechanistic view in which all 
phenomena were explained in terms of such simple machines 
as levers and wheels. This view enjoyed great success, and be- 
cause of this, mechanics became the model for all the natural 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

sciences indeed, for all science in general. It reached its acme 
about 1870, and then, with increasing discoveries in new fields 
of physics., there began a process of disintegration. Then in 1905, 
with the publication of Einstein's first paper on the theory of 
relativity, began the second great revolution. Just as Newton was 
instrumental in causing the transition from organismic to mech- 
anistic physics, so Einstein followed with the change from the 
mechanistic to what is sometimes called the mathematical de- 
scription of nature. 

In order to obtain a good understanding of Einstein's work 
and a comprehension of the paradoxical fate of his theories, it is 
necessary to appreciate the great emotional disturbances and the 
interference of political, religious, and social forces that have 
accompanied the revolutions in the philosophical conceptions 
of nature. Just as the Roman Inquisition characterized and 
condemned the investigations of Copernicus and Galileo as 
"philosophically false" because they did not fit into its concep- 
tion of nature, many philosophers and physicists all over the 
world rejected Einstein's theory of relativity since they could 
not understand it from their mechanistic point of view. In both 
cases the reason for the condemnation was not a difference of 
opinion in the judgment of observations, but the fact that the 
new theory did not employ the analogies required by the tradi- 
tional philosophy. 

It is certainly true that this rigid insistence on the retention of 
a specific explanatory analogy has in some cases discouraged the 
discovery of new laws that would account for newly discovered 
facts. But it would be a great historical injustice to maintain that 
this conservatism has always been harmful to the progress of 
science. The application of a specific conception was an im- 
portant instrument for the unification of the various branches of 
science. According to the organismic view, there was no real 
gap between animate and inanimate nature; both were subject 
to the same laws. The same situation existed in the mechanistic 
view, in which living organisms were described in terms of 
mechanics. Furthermore, the thorough application of an analogy 
frequently demanded a formal simplification, since it favored 
theories that derived all experimental evidence from a few sim- 
ple principles. 

Since all of us absorbed the mechanistic conception of nature 
in our training in school, it has become so familiar to us that 
we regard it as a triviality. When a theory seems trivial, how- 
ever, we no longer understand its salient point. Consequently, 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

in order to comprehend the great revolutionary significance that 
this theory possessed when it first appeared, we must try to 
imagine ourselves in that period. We shall see that mechanistic 
science in its early stages appeared as incomprehensible and 
paradoxical to many people as Einstein's theory does today. 

2. Organismic Physics of the Middle Ages 

When we observe a person's action we find that he is 
sometimes understandable and at other times incomprehensible. 
When we see a man suddenly dashing off in a particular direc- 
tion, it appears strange at first, but when we learn that in that 
direction gold coins are being distributed gratis, his action be- 
comes understandable. We cannot understand his action until 
we know his purpose. Exactly the same is true of animal be- 
havior. When a hare rushes off in a hurry, we understand this 
action if we know that there is a dog after it. The purpose of any 
motion is to reach a point that is somehow better adapted than 
the point from which it set out. 

Just as different kinds of behavior are exhibited by various 
organisms depending on their nature, so "organismic science" 
interpreted the movements executed by inanimate objects. The 
falling of a stone and the rising of flame may be interpreted 
as follows: Just as a mouse has its hole in the ground while an 
eagle nests on a mountain crag, so a stone has its proper place 
on the earth while a flame has its up above on one of the spheres 
that revolve around the earth. Each body has its natural position, 
where it ought to be in accordance with its nature. If a body is 
removed from this position, it executes a violent motion and 
seeks to return there as quickly as possible. A stone thrown up 
in the air tends to return as fast as possible to its position as close 
as it can get to the center of the earth, just as a mouse that has 
been driven from its hole tries to return there as soon as possible 
when the animal from which it fled is gone. 

It is of course possible that the stone will be prevented from 
falling. This occurs when a "violent" force acts on it. Accord- 
ing to the ancient philosophers: "A physician seeks to cure, but 
obstacles can prevent him from achieving his aim." This analogy 
presents the organismic point of view in probably the crudest 

There are also motions that apparently serve no purpose. They 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

do not tend toward any goal, but simply repeat themselves. Such 
are the movements of the celestial bodies, and they were there- 
fore regarded as spiritual beings of a much higher nature. Just 
as it was the nature of the lower organism to strive toward a goal 
and flee from danger, so it was the nature of the spiritual bodies 
to carry out eternally identical movements, 

This organismic conception had its basis in teachings o the 
Greek philosopher Aristotle. Although it was basically a heathen 
philosophy, it is to be found throughout the entire medieval 
period with only slight modifications in the doctrine of the lead- 
Ing Catholic philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, as well as in the 
teachings of the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, and the 
Mohammedan Averroes. 

3. Mechanistic Physics and Philosophy 

The transition from organismic to mechanistic physics 
is most clearly and in a certain sense most dramatically embodied 
in the person of Galileo Galilei. He looked upon the Copernican 
theory of the earth's motion as something more than just an 
"astronomical" hypothesis for the simple representation of ob- 
servations which says nothing about reality. He dared to throw 
doubt on the very basic principle of medieval physics. 

Galileo took as his starting-point the motion of an object along 
a straight line with constant velocity. This is a type of motion that 
is most easily represented by a mathematical treatment. He then 
considered the motion along a straight line with constant accel- 
eration; that is, when the velocity increases by a constant amount 
during each unit of time. Galileo tried to understand more com- 
plex types of motion on the basis of these simple forms. In par- 
ticular he discovered as a characteristic property of all falling 
bodies and flying projectiles that their downward acceleration 
was constant. He was thus able to consider their entire motion 
as being made up of two components: 

(1) a motion where the initial velocity remains constant both 
in direction and in magnitude (inertial motion) ; and 

(2) a motion with constant acceleration directed vertically 
downward (action of gravity). 

Sir Isaac Newton later extended this scheme to the more com- 
plicated motion of the celestial bodies and then to all motion in 


Conceptions of the Physical World be-fore Einstein 

general. For the circular motion of the planets, such as the earth, 
around the sun, Newton decomposed the motion into: 

(1) the inertial motion, where the initial velocity remains 
constant both in direction and in magnitude; and 

(2) the action of the gravitational force between the sun and 
the earth whereby the earth receives an acceleration that is di- 
rected toward the sun and is inversely proportional to the square 
of the distance between the earth and the sun. 

He then developed these ideas into his celebrated laws of mo- 
tion and the theory of gravitation : 

Law i: Every body continues in its state of rest or of uniform 
motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that 
state by forces impressed upon it (Law of Inertia) ; 

Law 2: The change of motion is proportional to the force 
impressed, and takes place in the direction in which the force is 
impressed (Law of Force) ; 

Law j: To every action there is always opposed an equal re- 
action; and 

The Universal Law of Gravitation: Every particle of matter in 
the universe attracts every other particle with a force whose di- 
rection is that of the line joining the two, and whose magnitude 
is directly proportional to the product of their masses and in- 
versely proportional to the square of the distance from each 

The remarkable success of these laws Is too well known to 
need amplification. They have formed the basis for all physics, 
astronomy and mechanical engineering. 

Newton and his contemporaries had already advanced theories 
concerning optical phenomena. All these theories had one fea- 
ture in common : they assumed that the laws of mechanics which 
have been found so successful in calculating the motions of the 
heavenly bodies and of the material bodies encountered in daily 
life could be applied also to optical phenomena, and attempted 
to explain them in terms of motions of particles. Very similar 
attempts were also made for all processes in other branches of 
science; for instance, electromagnetism, heat, and chemical re- 
actions. In each case the particular phenomenon was explained 
in terms of a mechanical model that obeyed the Newtonian laws 
of motion. 

The great practical successes of this method soon reached a 
point where only an exposition based on a mechanical analogy 
was considered as giving a satisfactory "physical understanding." 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Any other means of presenting and calculating a series o phe- 
nomena may be "practically useful/' but does not permit a 
"physical understanding." Explanations in terms of mechanical 
processes soon began to play the role that explanations in terms 
of organismic physics had played during the Middle Ages. A 
mechanistic philosophy took the place of organismic philosophy. 

Yet it is obvious that, originally, mechanistic physics owed its 
success only to its practical utility and not to any kind of philo- 
sophical plausibility. The law of inertia when it was first ad- 
vanced was not plausible from the point of view of the dominant 
medieval philosophy; on the contrary, it was absurd. Why should 
an ordinary terrestrial body move along a straight line and 
forever strive to attain infinity, where it has no business ? Yet this 
"absurd" law overcame all opposition; in the first place because 
it was mathematically simple, and in the second because the 
mechanistic physics based upon it led to great successes. Eventu- 
ally the entire development was turned upside down and it was 
asserted that only explanations in terms of a mechanical model 
were "philosophically true." The philosophers of the mechanistic 
period, especially from the end of the eighteenth century on, 
excogitated all kinds of ideas to prove not only that the law of 
inertia was not absurd, but that its truth was evident simply 
on the basis of reason and that any other assumption was incon- 
sistent with philosophy. 

Therein lies the historical root of the struggles waged by many 
professional philosophers against Einstein's theories. Allied with 
them were also many experimental physicists whose outlook on 
more general problems had not grown up on the basis of the 
scientific principles that they used in their laboratories. They 
kept their scientific investigations separated from the traditional 
philosophy that they had learned in the universities and in which 
they believed as in a creed rather than as in a scientific theory. 

4. Relativity Principle in Newtonian Mechanics 

There was one point, however, in Newton's laws of 
motion that was not clear. And this point is very important. The 
law of inertia states that every body moves in a straight line with 
constant velocity unless compelled by external influences to 
change that state. But what is the meaning of the expression 
"moves in a straight line"? In daily life it is quite clear; when 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

a billiard ball moves parallel to an edge of a table it moves in a 
straight line. But the table rests on the earth, which rotates about 
the polar axis and also revolves about the sun. To someone out- 
side the earth the same ball would seem to move in a very com- 
plicated path. Hence the ball apparently moves in a straight line 
only relative to a person in the same room. 

Newton explained this point by defining "absolute motion," 
as "translations of a body from one absolute position to another/' 
and then saying " 'absolute 5 motion is neither generated nor 
altered, but by some force impressed upon the body moved." 
Thus if we observe a ball moving parallel to an edge of a table 
without any force acting on it, then the room can be regarded 
as resting in "absolute space." Such "resting" rooms in which the 
law of inertia holds were later called inertial systems. If a room, 
say on a merry-go-round, rotates relative to the "resting" room, 
then a ball cannot move parallel to an edge of a table standing 
on the carousel without the exertion of some force. A merry-go- 
round is no inertial system. 

But what if the second room performs a uniform motion in 
a straight line? The ball can then travel parallel to an edge with- 
out the exertion of any force in the "moving" room. In fact, all 
motion that occurs with uniform velocity in a straight line in 
the first system will also take place with uniform velocity in a 
straight line in the second system. Consequently the law of in- 
ertia also holds in the "moving system," and it is true whatever 
the velocity of the system is with respect to the "resting" room 
as long as it takes place in the same direction with constant 

When forces operate on the ball and its velocity does not re- 
main constant but acceleration is introduced, the acceleration 
will be the same in both systems. Hence the law of force, which 
determines acceleration and is independent of the initial velocity, 
is the same for both systems. Thus we cannot determine the 
velocity with which the room moves in relation to the original 
inertial system by means of experiments on the motion of par- 
ticles performed in this room; and conversely, with the law of 
force and the initial velocities, we can predict the future mo- 
tions of particles without knowing anything about the uniform 
velocity with which the room may be moving. All systems that 
move uniformly along a straight line relative to an inertial sys- 
tem are likewise inertial systems. But Newton's laws do not say 
which material body is an inertial system. 

For most practical purposes, the effect of the rotation and revo- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

lution of the earth is very small, and its motion can be regarded 
as a uniform motion in a straight line. Within this range the 
earth is approximately an inertial system and we can predict 
the motion of particles on the earth by means of Newton's laws. 
The same can be done on railway trains, in elevators, and in 
ships as long as their motion relative to the earth is in a straight 
line with constant velocity. It is a common experience that we 
can play with a ball in exactly the same way whether we are on 
board a train or in a ship so long as it does not jerk or roll 

This law concerning the possibility of predicting future mo- 
tions from the initial velocities and the laws of force may be 
called the relativity principle of mechanistic physics. It is a de- 
duction from the Newtonian laws of motion and deals only 
with relative motions and not, as Newton's laws proper, with 
absolute motion. In this form it is a positive assertion, but it can 
also be formulated in a negative way, thus: It is impossible by 
means of experiments such as those described above to differen- 
tiate one inertial system from another. 

Thus the relativity principle first appeared as a characteristic 
feature of Newtonian mechanics. As we shall see, it was Ein- 
stein's greatest achievement to have discovered that this prin- 
ciple still applies even when Newtonian mechanics is no longer 
valid. He saw that the relativity principle is more suitable than 
the Newtonian laws to serve as a basis for a general theory of 
physical phenomena. It continues to remain valid even when 
mechanistic physics becomes untenable. 

5. Ether as a Mechanical Hypothesis 

The explanation of optical phenomena such as reflec- 
tion and refraction of light was first given in terms of two op- 
posing theories. Newton had propounded the corpuscular theory, 
in which light was considered as a stream of particles that be- 
haved according to the laws of motion, while a contemporary 
of his named Huygens had proposed the wave theory, in which 
light was considered as a vibration in a certain medium in the 
same way that sound is a vibration in air. The controversy was 
settled about 1850 in favor of the wave theory by the French 
physicists Arago and Foucault. Then the theoretical calculations 
of Maxwell and the experimental work of Hertz established the 
result that these vibrations associated with light are electromag- 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

netic in nature ; that is, that light is due to very rapid oscillations 
of electric and magnetic fields. 

These vibrations which give rise to propagation of waves re- 
quire a certain medium in which to oscillate. Sound is due to 
vibrations of the molecules in the air; there is no sound in a 
vacuum. Seismic waves, by which earthquakes are recorded, are 
due to the vibrations of the interior matter of the earth. Water 
waves are due to the motion of the water on the surface. But light 
from distant stars reaches us even though there is apparently no 
material medium in interstellar space. Nevertheless, according 
to mechanistic physics, it is absolutely essential that the oscilla- 
tions that give rise to propagation of light have some medium in 
which to oscillate. This medium was called the ether. 

Two questions arise when we consider the analogy between 
sound waves in air and light waves in ether. When any object 
such as an airplane or a projectile moves through air, there is a 
certain resisting force due to the friction, and a certain amount 
of air is dragged along with the object in its progress through 
the air. Hence the first question : Is it possible to detect motion 
of objects through the ether, say that of the earth as it revolves 
around the sun? And the second: Does the ether impede the 
progress of objects that move through it, and is there any drag- 
ging effect? 

In order to answer these questions it is necessary to consider 
the properties of the propagation of light through the ether, 
since it is only by means of light that ether manifests itself. Now, 
if a flash of light is just like the spread of ripples on a stagnant 
pond, its velocity of propagation will have a fixed value with 
respect to the ether; and to any observer who is moving with 
respect to it, the velocity will be greater or less depending on 
whether the direction of the propagation and the motion of the 
observer are in opposite directions or in the same direction. Thus 
if the earth moves through the ether without dragging it along 
in its revolutions around the sun, its velocity relative to the 
ether should be observable by measuring the velocity of light 
relative to the earth in different directions. 

The fact that the earth moves through the ether without affect- 
ing it is known by the aberration of starlight. The way in which 
the spread of light from a star is seen by an observer on the 
earth, which revolves around the sun, is like that in which a 
person watches a performance on a stage from a platform that 
revolves around it. It will appear to him that everything on 
the stage exhibits periodic annual changes. Astronomers have 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

long known that the fixed stars undergo such annual apparent 
motions. Thus the phenomenon of aberration shows that the 
ether is not influenced by the motion of the earth. 

The decisive experiment to find the relative motion of the 
earth through the ether was first prepared at the United States 
Naval Academy in 1879 by A. A. Michelson. It was carried out 
afterward at the Astrophysical Observatory in Potsdam, where 
he spent a year of research, and repeated later in the United 
States. Michelson, who was the outstanding expert on precise 
optical measurements, had arranged the experimental conditions 
so that a definite measurement could be made even if the velocity 
of the earth through the ether were only a small fraction of that 
due to its revolution around the sun. The result, however, was 
entirely negative. It was impossible to find any relative motion 
of the earth through the ether. 

Thus the mechanistic theory of light led to a dilemma. The 
aberration showed that the earth moved through the ether with- 
out disturbing it, but the Michelson experiment showed that it 
was not possible to find the velocity with which the earth trav- 
eled through the ether. 

6. Remnants of Medieval Concepts in Mechanistic 

In medieval physics the characteristic feature concern- 
ing the motion of objects had been the revolution of the heavenly 
bodies around the earth taken as the fixed center. This system 
represented a kind of a universal framework within which every- 
thing had its proper place, and motion within this system meant 
motion relative to this framework. The problem of absolute 
motion hardly appeared. Also a natural measure of time was 
given by the period of revolutions of the heavenly bodies. 

It may seem at first that the Copernican theory and the me- 
chanics of Galileo and Newton had disrupted this "closed 
world" of the Middle Ages, but a careful examination shows 
that a similar concept was still retained in mechanistic physics, 
Newton's law of inertia implied that freely moving objects can 
travel beyond all spatial limits, but it was in relation to "abso- 
lute space." Since the connection between absolute space and the 
empirical content of physical laws was difficult to demonstrate, 
the auxiliary concept of "inertial system" was introduced. It 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

was not possible, however,, to explain why the law of inertia 
should be valid in certain systems and not in others. This charac- 
teristic was not related to any other physical property o the 
system. Thus the inertial system still retained something of the 
character of the medieval universal framework. Furthermore, 
in extending the laws of mechanics to optical phenomena, it had 
been found necessary to "materialize" space with ether. This 
ether was a genuine universal framework. The motion of a 
laboratory relative to it should be observable by means of optical 

The physicists of the mechanistic period always felt uneasy 
in using the expressions "absolute space/' "absolute time/ 5 "ab- 
solute motion/' "inertial system/ 5 and "universal ether." New- 
ton himself did not succeed in explaining how one recognized 
the motion of a body in "absolute space" by actual observation, 
and he wrote: "It is indeed a matter of great difficulty to dis- 
cover, and effectually to distinguish, the true motion of par- 
ticular bodies from the apparent; because the parts of that 
immovable space, in which those motions are performed, do 
by no means come under the observation of our senses." Con- 
sequently, if one remains within the bounds of physics, one 
cannot give a satisfactory definition of "absolute motion." The 
theory becomes completely and logically unobjectionable only 
if, as was self-evident for Newton, God and his consciousness 
are added to the physical facts. 

For a long time no one had realized precisely what was the 
actual link between Newton's theological reflections and his 
scientific work. It was often asserted that they had no logical 
connection and that his reflections were significant only from a 
purely emotional standpoint or as a concession to the theological 
spirit of his time. But this is certainly not so. Although there 
might have been some doubt about this point earlier, yet since 
the discovery of the diary of David Gregory, a friend and student 
of Newton's, we know definitely that Newton introduced the 
theological hypothesis in order to give his theory of empty and 
absolute space a logically unobjectionable form. Gregory's diary 
for 1705 contains an entry concerning a conversation with New- 
ton on this topic. It says: "What the space that is empty of body 
is filled with, the plain truth is that he [Newton] believes God 
to be omnipresent in the literal sense; and that as we are sen- 
sible of objects when their images are brought home within the 
brain, so God must be sensible of everything, being intimately 
present with everything: for he [Newton] supposes that as God 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

is present in space where there is no body, he is present in space 
when a body is also present." 

E. A. Burtt in The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physi- 
cal Science, published in 1925, interprets correctly: 

"Certainly, at least, God must know whether any given motion is 
absolute or relative. The divine consciousness furnishes the ultimate 
center of reference for absolute motion. Moreover, the animism, in 
Newton's conception of force plays a part in the premise of the posi- 
tion. God is the ultimate originator of motion. Thus in the last analysis 
all relative or absolute motion is the resultant of an expenditure of 
the divine energy. Whenever the divine intelligence is cognizant of 
such an expenditure, the motion so added to the system of the world 
must be absolute." 

By means of this anthropomorphic conception of God, a scien- 
tific, almost physical definition of absolute motion is obtained. It 
is linked with the energy expended by a being called "God," but 
to which properties of a physical system are ascribed. Otherwise 
the concept of energy could not be applied to the system. Funda- 
mentally the definition means that one assumes the existence 
in the world of a real source of energy that is distinguished 
from all others. Motion produced by the energy expenditure of 
mechanical systems in general is described as only "relative" 
motion, while motion produced by this select being is charac- 
terized as "absolute." It should never be forgotten, however, that 
the logical admissibility of this definition of absolute motion is 
bound up with the existence of the energy-producing being. 
During the eighteenth century, in the age of the Enlightenment, 
men no longer liked to ascribe to God a part in the laws of 
physics. But it was forgotten that Newton's concept of "absolute 
motion" was thereby deprived of any content. Burtt in his afore- 
mentioned book says very aptly: "When, in the eighteenth cen- 
tury, Newton's conception of the world was gradually shorn 
of its religious relations, the ultimate justification for absolute 
space and time as he had portrayed them disappeared and the 
entities were left empty.*' 

7. Critics of the Mechanistic Philosophy 

Toward the end of the nineteenth century more and 
more physical phenomena were discovered that could be ex- 
plained only with great difficulty and in a very involved way 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

by the principles of Newtonian mechanics. As a consequence 
new thories appeared in which it was not clear whether they 
could be derived from Newtonian mechanics, but which were 
accepted as temporary representations of the observed phenom- 
ena. Was this true knowledge of nature or only a "mathematical 
description/ 5 as the Copernican system was considered in 
medieval physics ? These doubts could not be resolved so long 
as it was believed that there were philosophical proofs accord- 
ing to which reduction to Newtonian mechanics provided the 
only possibility for the true understanding of nature. 

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century a critical 
attitude toward this mechanistic philosophy became more and 
more evident. An understanding of this criticism is an essential 
prerequisite for the understanding of Einstein's theory and its 
position in the development of our knowledge of nature. As 
long as it was believed that Newtonian mechanics was based 
ultimately on human reason and could not be shaken by scien- 
tific advance, every attempt such as that of Einstein, to establish 
a theory of motion not founded on Newton's theory necessarily 
appeared absurd. The critics of mechanistic philosophy plowed 
the soil in which Einstein was then able to plant his seeds. 

As the first of these critics, we may mention Gustav Kirchhoff, 
the discoverer of spectral analysis. In 1876 he stated that the task 
of mechanics was "to describe completely and as simply as pos- 
sible motions occurring in nature." This meant that Newtonian 
mechanics is itself only a convenient scheme for a simple presen- 
tation of the phenomena of motion that we observe in daily 
experience. It does not give us an "understanding" of these oc- 
currences in any other philosophical sense. By thus contravening 
the general opinion that Newton's principles of mechanics are 
self-evident to the human mind, he created something of a sensa- 
tion among natural scientists and philosophers. 

Furthermore, with KirchhofFs conception that mechanics is 
only a description of the phenomena of motion, the mechanical 
explanations of the phenomena in optics, electricity, heat, etc. 
the aim of mechanistic physics became simply descriptions 
of these results in terms of a pattern that had been found to be 
most suitable for mechanics. Why should one describe by this 
roundabout method of using mechanics instead of trying to find 
directly the most suitable scheme for the description of various 
phenomena? Newtonian mechanics was thus deprived of its 
special philosophical status. 

In 1888 Heinrich Hertz discovered the electromagnetic waves, 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

which form the basis of our modem wireless telegraphy and 
radio, and he then set out to explain these phenomena in terms 
of a physical theory. He took as his starting-point Maxwell's 
theory of electromagnetic fields. James Clerk Maxwell had de- 
rived his fundamental equation from mechanistic physics by 
assuming that electromagnetic phenomena are actually mechan- 
ical oscillations in the ether. Hertz noticed that in doing this 
Maxwell had been compelled to invent mechanisms that were 
very difficult to calculate, and found it was simpler to represent 
electromagnetic phenomena directly by means of Maxwell's 
equation between electric and magnetic fields and charges. Since 
it was also evident to him, however, that these relations could 
not be derived directly from experience, he was led to a consid- 
eration of the logical character of these equations. In 1889 he 
made a remark that can be regarded as the program for the new 
approach to physics, a conception that was eventually to replace 
the mechanistic view. Hertz said: 

"But in no way can a direct proof of Maxwell's equations be de- 
duced from experience. It appears most logical, therefore, to regard 
them independently of the way in which they had been arrived at, 
and consider them as hypothetical assumptions and let their plausi- 
bility depend upon the very large number of natural laws which they 
embrace. If we take up this point of view we can dispense with a 
number of auxiliary ideas which render the understanding of Max- 
well's theory more difficult." 

Thus Hertz consciously abandoned that which during both 
the organismic and the mechanistic period was described as the 
"philosophical" foundation of physics. He maintained that it 
was sufficient to have a knowledge of laws from which phe- 
nomena could be calculated and predicted without raising any 
question of whether these laws were intrinsically evident to the 
human mind. 

8. Ernst Mack: The General Laws of Physics Arc 
Summaries of Observations Organized in 
Simple Forms 

The criticisms of the mechanistic philosophy by physi- 
cists such as Kirchhoff and Hertz were only occasional and 
aphoristic. There were others, however,, whose criticisms were 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

based on a very precise conception of nature and of the task of 
science. The French philosopher Auguste Comte advanced the 
sociological theory that the "metaphysical" stage in the develop- 
ment of a science is already succeeded by a "positivistic" one. This 
means that the demand for the use of a specific analogy such 
as the organismic and mechanistic views is abandoned and after 
that a theory is judged only as to whether it presents "positive" 
experience in a simple, logically unobjectionable form. 

This approach was most widely and profoundly developed 
by the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach, who became one of Ein- 
stein's immediate forerunners. Mach carried out a thorough his- 
torical, and logical analysis of Newtonian mechanics and showed 
that it contains no principle that is in any way self-evident to 
the human mind. All that Newton did was to organize his 
observations of motion under several simple principles from 
which movements in individual cases can be predicted. But all 
these predictions are correct only so long as the experiences 
upon which Newton based his principles are true. 

Mach emphasized, in particular, the demand for simplicity 
and economy of thought in a physical theory: the greatest possi- 
ble number of observable facts should be organized under the 
fewest possible principles. Mach compared this requirement to 
the demand for economy in practical life and spoke of the "eco- 
nomic" nature of scientific theories. Thus Mach, instead of 
demanding the use of a specified analogy, insisted that science 
be "economical." 

Furthermore, not only did Mach criticize the attempts of 
philosophers to make a philosophical system out of Newton's 
mechanics, but he also criticized the remains of medieval physics 
that it still retained. He pointed out that Newton's theory con- 
tained such expressions as "absolute space" and "absolute time," 
which cannot be defined in terms of observable quantities or 
processes. In order to eliminate such expressions from the funda- 
mental laws of mechanics, Mach raised the demand which 
is now frequently described as the positivistic criterion of sci- 
ence: namely, that only those propositions should be employed 
from which statements regarding observable phenomena can 
be deduced. 

This demand is very aptly elucidated by his criticism of New- 
ton's law of inertia. If we wish to test this law experimentally, 
we can never formulate a question such as this : Does a body tend 
to maintain the direction of its initial velocity relative to abso- 
lute space ? The question is meaningless since absolute space is 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

unobservable. If we perform, say, Foucault's pendulum experi- 
ment, which gives an experimental proof of the rotation of the 
earth, we observe actually that the pendulum maintains its plane 
of oscillation relative, not to absolute space, but rather to the fixed 
stars in the sky. 

Consequently, according to Mack, all mention of absolute 
space should be removed from the law of inertia, and it would 
then be expressed as follows: Every body maintains its velocity, 
both in magnitude and in direction, relative to the fixed stars 
as long as no forces act upon it. This means that the fixed stars 
exert an observable influence on every moving body, an effect 
that is in addition to and independent of the law of gravitation. 
For the motion of terrestrial objects this latter influence is hardly 
observable in practice, since the force of gravity decreases with 
the square of the distance between the attracting bodies, but the 
laws of inertia will determine all terrestrial motion if the frame- 
work of the fixed stars is declared as an inertial system. 

9. Henri Poincare: The General Laws of Physics Are 
Free Creations of the Human Mind 

In consequence of the criticisms of Mach and others, it 
had become clear that the laws of Newtonian mechanics and the 
understanding of all physical phenomena in terms of it are not 
demanded by human reason. However, Mach's assertion that the 
general laws of physics are only simple economical summaries 
of observed facts was not satisfactory to many scientists. Particu- 
larly for physicists who thought along mathematical lines and 
had a greater formal imagination, the assertion, for example, that 
Newton's law of gravitation is only a simple summary of observa- 
tion on the positions of the planets did not seem adequate. Be- 
tween the actual observation of the position of the planets by a 
telescope and the statement that the gravitational force between 
two bodies is inversely proportional to the square of the distance 
there seemed to be a wide gap. 

Criticism of nineteenth-century physics in this direction was 
carried on chiefly by the French mathematician Henri Poincare. 
His writings on the logical character of the general laws of na- 
ture probably exerted more influence on mathematicians and 
physicists toward the end of the nineteenth century than any 
other similar writings. He paved the way for a new, logically 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

satisfying conception of nature, and his ideas also played an 
outstanding part in the reception and discussion of Einstein's 

Poincare's view is often described as "conventionalism." Ac- 
cording to him,, the general propositions of science, such as the 
theorem about the sum of the angles of a triangle, the law of 
inertia in mechanics, the law of conservation of energy, and so 
on, are not statements about reality, but arbitrary stipulations 
about how words, such as "straight lines," "force," "energy," are 
to be employed in the propositions of geometry, mechanics, and 
physics. Consequently one can never say whether one of those 
propositions is true or false; they are free creations of the human 
mind and one can only question whether these stipulations or 
conventions have been expedient or not. 

This conception may be elucidated by means of two examples. 
Let us first consider the geometrical theorem referred to above: 
namely, that the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two 
right angles. According to nineteenth-century tradition this is 
an unshakable proposition, which is a product of human reason- 
ing and at the same time a statement concerning what is actually 
observed in nature. On the one hand, we can derive this propo- 
sition from the axioms of geometry, which are "directly evident 
to the mind"; on the other hand, by measuring the angle of an 
actual material triangle, we can corroborate this relationship. 
Poincare, however, says: if an actual triangle is formed from, 
say, three iron rods, and the measurement shows that the sum 
of the angles is not exactly equal to two right angles, one of two 
different conclusions can be drawn: either that the geometrical 
theorem is not valid, or that the rods forming the triangle are 
not straight lines. We have the two alternatives, and we can 
never decide by experiments the validity of geometrical theorems. 
Consequently we can say that the propositions of geometry are 
arbitrary stipulations or definitions and not statements about 
empirical facts. They establish under what circumstances we 
wish to call a rod a "straight line." Thus geometrical theorems 
are not statements about the nature of space, as it is often ex- 
pressed, but rather definitions of such words as "straight lines." 

According to Poincare, the laws of mechanics are of somewhat 
similar character to the propositions of geometry. Let us, there- 
fore, consider the law of inertia as the second example. The pos- 
sibility of verification of the law rests on our ability to determine 
whether or not a body moves with uniform velocity in a straight 
line. As long as we cannot do this, the law of inertia can only 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

be characterized in some such statement as this: "When a body 
moves without being influenced by forces,, we call this state a 
uniform motion along a straight line." It is simply a definition 
of the expression "uniform motion in a straight line/' or, accord- 
ing to our discussions in sections 3 and 4, a definition of the term 
"inertial system." 

Thus the general principles, such as the theorem about the 
sum of the angles of a triangle or the law of inertia, do not 
describe observable phenomena, but are rather definitions of ex- 
pressions such as "straight line" or "uniform motion along a 
straight line." One has to add definitions by which one recog- 
nizes whether a given rod is straight or the motion of a ball 
is uniform and along a straight line and which have been named 
"operational definitions" by P. W. Bridgman. These, together 
with the physical laws (e.g., the law of inertia), constitute a 
a system of propositions that can be verified by experience. 

One of the chief consequences of this conception is that it 
makes no sense in science to inquire into the philosophical sig- 
nificance or the "nature" of such physical expressions as "force," 
"matter," "electric charge," "duration of time," etc. The use of 
such concepts is always justified if statements permitting ex- 
perimental verification can be derived from the propositions in 
which these expressions occur. Apart from this they have no 
meaning. Because Newtonian mechanics was able to describe 
very complex phenomena such as the motion of the planets in 
simple statements with the aid of the words "force" and "mass," 
these terms have scientific meaning. There is no need to puzzle 
one's brain over whether "force" can be explained from a "mech- 
anistic" standpoint or "matter" from an "organismic" one. 
"Force" and "matter" are constructions of the human mind. 

10. Positivistic and Pragmatic Movements 

The idea of Mach that the general laws of science are 
simple summaries of experimental facts, and the idea of Poin- 
care that they are free creations of the human mind, appear to 
be diametrically opposed to each other; but when we consider 
the intellectual currents of the last quarter of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, we can see that they were only two wings of the same 
intellectual movement, generally known as the positivistic move- 
ment. It was directed chiefly against the metaphysical founda- 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

tions of science. The proponents of this view asserted that the 
validity of the general principles of science cannot be proved by 
showing that they are in agreement with some eternal philo- 
sophical truths, and they set out to investigate how the validity 
can be judged within science itself. They found that two criteria 
are possible, an empirical and a logical. In the former the observ- 
able facts that follow from the general principles must have 
experimental confirmation, and in the latter the principles and 
operational definitions must form a practical and consistent sys- 
tem. The emphasis put on the empirical or the logical criterion 
determined one's position in one or the other wing of the 
movement. Mach was on the extreme empirical wing, while 
Poincare was on the extreme logical side. There was therefore 
no conflict between them; it was only that two different aspects 
of the same scientific method were being emphasized. 

The positivistic movement exerted a great influence in central 
and western Europe during the last quarter of the nineteenth 
century. The central European positivism, chiefly centered in the 
Austrian Ernst Mach, was to be found in the universities of 
Vienna and Prague. It had but little influence and few followers 
in the universities of the German Reich. At this time Germany 
was completely under the influence of various versions of Kan- 
tian philosophy, whose status was almost that of a state religion. 
Since German was also the chief language of science in Austria, 
Central European positivism developed largely as the critic and 
rival of Kantian philosophy. For this reason it was more mili- 
tant than French positivism, led by Poincare. 

About this time there appeared independently in the United 
States a movement that is related to European positivism in its 
chief line of thought. In 1878 C. S. Peirce published an essay 
on the logical character of scientific statements. Like Mach and 
Poincare, he pointed out that the meaning of general statements 
cannot be derived from agreement with still more general meta- 
physical truths, but must be drawn from the observed facts that 
follow from them. In contrast to the European positivists, how- 
ever, Peirce emphasized particularly the role of propositions as 
the basis for our actions. He therefore called his doctrine "prag- 
matism." "The essence of a belief/' he said, "is the establishment 
of a habit, and different beliefs are distinguished by different 
modes of action to which they give rise." Like Mach, Peirce alsc 
warned against the trivial metaphysics that we have imbibed 
with our education since childhood. He said: "The truth is that 
common sense or thought as it first emerges above the level oJ 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

the narrowly practical is deeply imbued with that bad logical 
quality to which the epithet metaphysical is commonly applied." 
He also emphasized that words such as "force" are only expedi- 
ents for the representation of facts and that every question as 
to their "actual nature" is superfluous and useless. In the same 
article he said: 

"Whether we ought to say that a force is an acceleration or that it 
causes an acceleration is a mere question of propriety of language 
which has no more to do with the real meaning than the difference be- 
tween the French idiom *il fait froid* and the English equivalent 
'it is cold.'" 

An approach very similar to that of Mach was manifested by 
John Dewey in his first scientific article: "The Metaphysical 
Assumptions of Materialism/' published in 1882. Dismissing the 
opinion that the reduction of all phenomena to the motions of 
material bodies is an explanation of nature, he said: 

"First, it assumes the possibility of ontological knowledge, by which 
we mean knowledge of being or substance apart from a mere suc- 
cession of phenomena. . . . Secondly, it assumes the reality of causal 
nexus and the possibility of real causation. In declaring that matter 
causes mind it declares that the relation is one of dependency and 
not one of succession." 

The struggle against materialism here is not carried on in the 
service of an idealistic philosophy, as with the average professors 
of philosophy in European and American universities, but en- 
tirely along the lines of central European positivism, which op- 
posed mechanistic physics on the ground that it is not a suf- 
ficiently broad basis of science. 

American pragmatism since then has developed into a power- 
ful movement, finding its most characteristic expression in John 
Dewey and William James. It has devoted itself more to the 
problems of human life than to the logic of the physical sciences, 
in contrast to the development of positivism in Europe, Consid- 
ered from the purely logical point of view, however, the basic 
tendency was the same on both sides of the Atlantic, The medie- 
val idea of a philosophical explanation in contrast to a practical 
representation of facts vital to life lost prestige to an ever in- 
creasing degree. From a logical basis of science, metaphysics 
developed into a means of satisfying emotional needs. 


Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

ii. Science at the End of the Nineteenth Century 

During the golden age of mechanistic physics it was 
generally felt that outside of its application lay the realm of the 
unknowable and the unintelligible, since "to understand" meant 
"to represent by analogy to a mechanism." In 1872 the German 
scientist Du Bois-Reymond, in his famous lecture on "Die 
Grenzen des Naturerfcnnens (The Limits of Our Knowledge 
of Nature)" took as his point of departure the assertion, then 
regarded as self-evident, that "understanding" means "reduc- 
tion to the laws of Newtonian mechanics." He indicated two 
important problems of science that can certainly not be reduced 
to mechanics. These are, first, the problem of what "actually 
occurs in space where a force is acting" and, secondly, how it 
happens that "matter in the human brain can think and feel" 
Since the answers to these questions can obviously not be ob- 
tained within the framework of mechanistic physics, he con- 
cluded that there are "insoluble problems" that are inaccessible 
to human knowledge. To these questions we should say "igno- 
rabimus" ("we shall never know") instead of "ignoramus" ("we 
do not know"). This word "ignorabimus" became the slogan 
of an entire period, the slogan of defeatism in science, which de- 
lighted all anti-scientific tendencies of the period. Toward the 
end of the nineteenth century more and more facts became 
known in physics and biology that could not be explained or 
controlled by means of the laws of mechanics, with the result 
that the catchword "ignorabimuf was soon converted into the 
even more exciting slogan, "the bankruptcy of science." 

This feeling of the failure of rational scientific thought was 
Intensified by various social developments. Science that is, 
science guided by the spirit of mechanistic physics had led men 
during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to believe in the 
possibility of continual progress. If men only acted according to 
the teachings of science instead of irrational superstitions, man- 
kind would be freed from all need. The political expression of 
this faith was liberalism. Toward the end of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, however, it became ever clearer that the attempts based on 
science and the faith in progress had not succeeded in abolishing 
the economic misery of the great mass of the population, or in 
eliminating the psychological suffering of individual human be- 
ings. A feeling of despair developed which expressed the con- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

viction that scientific theory and practice were a disappointment. 
Alongside liberalism, new political currents developed that had 
their own conceptions of science, conceptions differing from the 
mechanistic view. One tendency propagated a return to the 
organismic science of the Middle Ages, and from it developed 
the authoritarian socialism that became the germ-cell of later 
fascism in all its varieties. Another movement, represented by 
Karl Marx, wanted to transform "mechanistic" materialism into 
"dialetical" materialism, and from it developed the communism 
of the twentieth century. 

It was impossible to deny that science was still the basis of 
technological progress, but it was believed that it could be dis- 
paraged by speaking of it as the church did about the Copernican 
system of the world: that mechanistic natural science provided 
only a useful guide for action, and no true knowledge of nature. 
Around 1900 Abel Rey, a French philosopher and historian of 
science, gave a very acute and trenchant description of the dan- 
gers for general intellectual life entailed by such an attitude of 
despair. He said: 

"If these sciences which have had an essentially emancipating effect 
in history go down in a crisis which leaves them only with the sig- 
nificance of technically useful information but robs them of every 
value in connection with the cognition of nature, this must bring 
about a complete revolution. The emancipation of the mind as we 
owe it to physics is a most fatally erroneous idea. One must introduce 
another way, and give credit to subjective intuition, to a mystical 
sense of reality." 

There have been two ways out of this crisis of science which 
had developed in consequence of the breakdown of mechanistic 
physics. In his book The Idealistic Reaction against Science, 
Aliotta, an Italian, described the situation in the following very 
striking manner : 

"Could thought rest easy in this complacent agnosticism? There 
were two ways o escaping this intolerable situation: either to turn 
to the other function of the mind (besides intellect) or to eliminate 
the problem altogether by proving that it is due to a faulty perspective 
and false conception of science. Both ways have been tried. On the 
one hand, by a return to the moralism of Fichtc and the sestheticism 
of the romanticists, into which the rebellious genius of Nietzsche has 
breathed new life, the will as the creative source o all values and o 
unfettered esthetic intuition is exalted above intelligence. On the 
other hand, the bases of the mechanical conception and its chief in- 
strumentsgeometrical intuition and mathematical calculation 

Conceptions of the Physical World before Einstein 

are subjected to a searching examination. This analysis, to which men 
o science themselves were impelled by the discovery of the new 
principle of energy and by metageometrical concepts, resulted in 
stress being laid upon the active work of the mind in the construc- 
tion of scientific laws and theories." 

The second alternative mentioned here was the view taken 
by the advocates of positivism and pragmatism. Their way out 
of the "bankruptcy of science" was to proclaim that mechanistic 
science had formulated the problem in a manner that necessarily 
led into a cul-de-sac; it had not correctly defined the goal of 
science. The unattainable something, for which the despairing 
solution of "ignorabimus" was proposed, had been recognized as 
a phantom, a chimera that has nothing to do with science. 
Through an analysis of the really successful methods of science, 
men such as Mach and Poincare in Europe, and Peirce and Dewey 
In America, have shown that it is of no significance whatso- 
ever whether observations are presented in terms of a certain pre- 
ferred analogy. All that matters Is that the statements of science 
are useful; the specific language and the equation by which they 
are formulated do not matter. Thus with the goal of science de- 
fined in the positivistic and pragmatic sense, it becomes evident 
that the end of the nineteenth century does not represent a crisis, 
but rather one phase of the gradual progress of science toward 
its goal, which is the creation of an instrument for predicting and 
controlling the phenomena. 

In a certain sense this positivistic-pragmatic movement, so 
characteristic of the turn of the century, belonged to the group 
of movements that were directed against the overestimation of 
the role of the intellect. Professor Ralph Barton Perry very cor- 
rectly said: 

"Much the most sophisticated form of anti-intellectualism and at 
the same time the form most characteristic of our age is that form 
which has now come very generally to be called 'instrumentalism' 
and which is represented at present by the school of James and Dewey 
in America. . , . According to this view the intellect instead of being 
an oracle is a practical instrument to be judged by the success with 
which it does work." 

Nevertheless, the new movement, no matter whether It was 
called pragmatism, positivism, or instrumentalism, could be 
characterized as anti-intellectual only in so far as it warned 
against occupying the intellect with meaningless problems. The 
adherents said that the intellect is unable to discover the meta- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

physical reality behind phenomena. But this is not a diminution 
of its role, since to speak of such a metaphysical reality does not 
make sense for science. It is sterile and leads only to confusion. 
The creation of an "instrument," which is now what is meant by 
"science," can be accomplished only by means of the intellect, 
even though we cannot produce a blueprint for discovering gen- 
eral principles. The discovery of laws such as the energy prin- 
ciple or the law of inertia is the work of a genius, like the com- 
position of a symphony. But when the general law has been 
enunciated, it is then the function of the methodically proceed- 
ing intellect to make its meaning clear to all Only the intellect 
can test the principle and pronounce judgment on its truth 
that is, whether it is of value in realizing the aims of science. 

So ends the nineteenth century. Its faith in the ability of sci- 
ence to reveal the ultimate reality behind phenomena was 
shaken; but in its place appeared the sober consolation of positiv- 
ism that science had become more flexible and girded for new 
tasks of a boldness never dreamed of. During the twilight period 
characterized by a devaluation of the intellect and an increased 
regard for action, there appeared, like a silver glow on the hori- 
zon, the hope that a more acute logical analysis would give an 
entirely new form of science based on a methodically operating 
intellect. The twentieth century ushered in this dawn. 



i. Life in Bern 

When Einstein took up his position at the patent office 
in Bern, it was in two respects a turning-point in his life. He be- 
came engaged in a practical occupation that made him finan- 
cially independent and filled his time with an obligatory activity, 
and he founded a family. For most people these two circum- 
stances provide the most important and often the only content 
of their lives. This was true only to a very slight degree for Ein- 
stein, to whom neither professional activity nor a family had a 
great significance. At times these activities gave him a certain 
relaxation, but they never really satisfied him. 

Throughout his life Einstein has been in a certain sense a very 
lonesome man. He sought the harmony of the universe in music 
as well as in mathematical physics and he has been engaged in 
these two fields during his entire life. Everything else was sig- 
nificant for him only in so far as it affected his progress toward 
this goal. He sought friends with whom he could play music or 
discuss ideas about the universe; yet he did not like to become so 
intimate with his friends that they could in any way interfere 
with his freedom. His attractive, frank, and witty personality 
easily made many friends, but his predilection for isolation and 
his concentration on his artistic and scientific life disappointed 
many people and estranged some who had been, or at least had 
believed themselves to be, his friends. We find repeatedly that 
throughout his life this contrast has determined his relations to 
his environment. 

Much later (1930) he himself described this character trait 
very precisely and strikingly: 

"My passionate interest in social justice and social responsibility has 
always stood in curious contrast to a marked lack of desire for direct 
association with men and women. I am a horse for single harness, not 
cut out for tandem or teamwork. I have never belonged wholeheart- 
edly to any country or state, to my circle of friends, or even to my 
own family. These ties have always been accompanied by a vague 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

aloofness, and the wish to withdraw into myself increases with the 
years. Such isolation is sometimes bitter, but I do not regret being 
cut off from the understanding and sympathy of other men. I lose 
something by it, to be sure, but I am compensated for it in being 
rendered independent of the customs, opinions, and prejudices of 
others, and arn not tempted to rest my peace of mind upon such 
shifting foundations." 

Although Einstein did not seek much stimulation from others, 
yet he did not like to develop his ideas in solitude without any 
contact with other people. Frequently he has liked the presence 
of a companion in order to be able to speak his mind freely. Even 
during the early period in his career he liked to try out his ideas 
on others to see how they reacted to them. 

At Bern his chief companion in this respect was an Italian 
engineer named Besso. He was somewhat older than Einstein,, 
and a man of critical mind and a highly nervous temperament. 
He was often able to offer pertinent critical remarks on Ein- 
stein's formulations, and also responded vigorously to those ideas 
of Einstein's which were new and astonishing. He frequently 
remarked about new ideas: "If they are roses, they will bloom." 
Around Einstein and Besso there gathered a small group of peo- 
ple interested in science and philosophy, who often met to dis- 
cuss such questions. 

2. Interest in Philosophy 

Since Einstein was chiefly interested in the general laws 
of physics or, more precisely, in deriving logically the immeasur- 
able field of our experiences from a few principles, he soon came 
into contact with a set of problems that are usually dealt with in 
philosophical works. Unlike the average specialist, he did not 
stop to inquire whether a problem belonged to his field or 
whether its solution could be left to the philosophers. 

Einstein read philosophical works from two points of view, 
which were sometimes mutually exclusive. He read some authors 
because he was actually able to learn from them something about 
the nature of general scientific statements, particularly about 
their logical connection with the laws through which we express 
direct observations. These philosophers were chiefly David 
Hume, Ernst Mach, Henri Poincare, and, to a certain degree, 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

Immanuel Kant. Kant, however, brings us to the second point 
of view. Einstein liked to read some philosophers because they 
made more or less superficial and obscure statements in beautiful 
language about all sorts of things, statements that often aroused 
an emotion like beautiful music and gave rise to reveries and 
meditations on the world. Schopenhauer was pre-eminently a 
writer of this kind, and Einstein liked to read him without in 
any way taking his views seriously. In the same category he 
also included philosophers like Nietzsche. Einstein read these 
men, as he sometimes put it, for "edification/ 5 just as other peo- 
ple listen to sermons. 

The philosopher whose views Einstein felt helped him most 
was David Hume, who is usually characterized as the "represent- 
ative of the English Enlightenment." What Einstein liked most 
about Hume was the unsurpassable clarity of his presentation 
and his avoidance of any ambiguities intended to give an im- 
pression of profundity. Hume showed that there are only two 
methods available for science: experience and mathematical- 
logical derivations. He was the father of the logical-empirical 
approach, and he rejected all metaphysical auxiliary concepts 
if they could not be established by experience and logical 
derivation. The most famous examples are Hume's criticism 
of the ordinary conception of the relation between cause and 
effect, and of induction the method of deriving a general law 
from a few particular instances. 

When we observe that a stone A strikes a stone B and sets it 
in motion, we usually express this occurrence as follows: Stone 
A has caused stone B to move. By experience we can only con- 
firm the fact that whenever A strikes B, B is set in motion. Before 
Hume it was usually said that this connection is a necessary one. 
In physics, however, the word "necessary" can have no meaning 
other than "regularly connected." If in addition to this we wish 
to introduce the word "necessary" as "cause" in another, higher 
sense, we are asserting something that cannot be proved by any 
observation. Every observation shows only whether or not the 
motion of B regularly follows when it is struck by A, but never 
anything that can be expressed by the statement; "Motion of B 
necessarily follows from collision with A! 3 

According to Hume, then, to explain a phenomenon causally 
means only to state the conditions under which it occurs. This 
conclusion of Hume's that science knows only the regularity of 
natural phenomena and processes, but nothing about any "causa- 
tion" that goes beyond this, was of the greatest significance for 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

Einstein's scientific thought. Many of the polemics later directed 
against Einstein were fundamentally polemics against Hume. 
We shall see that his adherence to the 'philosophy of the Eng- 
lish Enlightenment" was later used by German nationalists to 
discredit him. It was used to tie up Einstein's theories with the 
political philosophy of liberalism, and consequently to condemn 

Some of Hume's ideas also appear in the writings of Ernst 
Mach, the leader of central European positivism. Next to Hume, 
Mach was the philosopher who exerted the greatest Influence 
on Einstein. Of particular significance was Mach's criticlsin of 
the remains of medieval physics in Newtonian mechanics, which 
have already been discussed in Section 8 of the last chapter. 
Mach's criticism that such expressions as "absolute space," "ab- 
solute time/' and "absolute motion" could not be connected in 
any way with physical observations was one of the points from 
which Einstein set out to replace Newton's theory of motion by 
his own. "Mach's postulate" has in many instances been^a use- 
ful point of departure for new theories. According to this "postu- 
late," for every physical phenomenon the conditions of its oc- 
currence must be sought among other observable phenomena. 
Later "Mach's postulate" led Einstein to advance his new theory 
of gravitation. 

On the other hand, Einstein was not particularly sympathetic 
to what he called the "Machian philosophy," by which he meant 
Mach's doctrine that the general laws of physics are only sum- 
maries of experimental results. Einstein believed that this con- 
ception did not give sufficient credit to the fact that general laws 
cannot be inferred from experience. In Einstein's opinion they 
are to be tested by experience, but owe their origin to the inven- 
tive faculty of the human mind. 

It was this very point that Einstein esteemed so highly in 
Kant's work. Kant's principal point was that the general laws of 
science contain not only the result of experience, but also an 
element provided by human reason. On the other hand, Einstein 
did not share Kant's belief that human reason by itself can yield 
important natural laws, and that consequently there are laws 
that are eternally valid. Einstein liked to read Kant because 
through him he became acquainted with many of Hume's ideas. 
The views of Einstein and Kant are similar in their emphasis 
on the role of the human mind, but this similarity is rather emo- 
tional than logical. 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

3. The Fundamental Hypotheses of the Theory of 

The blind alley into which the ether theory of light 
had been led by Michelson's experiment has already been men- 
tioned in Section 5 of the previous chapter. Michelson had tried 
to measure the velocity of the earth as it moves through the 
ether, but had obtained the value zero for this velocity. 

The main idea of this experiment can be explained in this way : 
We know that a swimmer takes longer to swim upstream than 
downstream between two points in the bank. In f act., by measur- 
ing the two rates of travel,, we can easily calculate the velocity 
of both the swimmer and the stream. According to the mechanis- 
tic view, light should travel through the ether in exactly the same 
way as the swimmer in the stream, and experiments on light 
propagated through the "stream of ether" relative to the moving 
earth should be comparable to observations on the swimmer 
made from the bank of the stream. Thus the measurements of 
the velocities of light when traveling with the ether stream and 
against it should enable us to calculate the velocity of the earth 
through the ether. The execution of this fundamental idea in 
this simple form, however, is not practicable, since the velocity of 
light is so very great 186,000 miles per second but Michelson 
devised a means whereby the velocities of light that has traveled 
along two well-defined paths could be compared. His idea was to 
measure the diff erence in time taken by one beam, which travels 
from a certain point (S) to a mirror (M ) in a direction along 
the motion of the earth through the ether and then back to S 
against the motion, and another beam which goes from S to an- 
other mirror (JV) situated the same distance from S as M, but in 
a direction perpendicular to the motion and back to S. If the 
mechanistic view is correct, the first beam should take a slightly 
longer time than the second, and with the sensitive apparatus 
that Michelson had, the result should have been observable, even 
if the velocity of the earth through the ether were only a small 
fraction of the velocity of the earth around the sun. There was 
no observable difference in the two times, however. 

If we refuse to assume that the earth always remains at rest in 
the ether, which would contradict other observations, the only 
possible conclusion that we can draw from Michelson's experi- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

ment is that the hypothesis on which the result was predicted 
must be false. This hypothesis, however,, was the mechanistic 
theory of light itself. 

Einstein drew a radical conclusion and suggested abandoning 
entirely the assumption that light is a process in a medium 
known as the ether. Instead of asking what are the results of the 
interaction of light and motion according to the ether theory of 
light, he asked what are the chief characteristics of the inter- 
action of light and motion that are known from actual observa- 
tions. He condensed these features into a few simple laws and 
then inquired what could follow from such laws if developed 
along logical and mathematical chains. 

Michelson's experiment and similar ones performed by others 
showed that optical phenomena cannot be regarded as mechani- 
cal phenomena in the ether, but that they do have a very general 
observable feature in common with mechanical phenomena. 
This feature which is common to the motion of material bodies 
and the propagation of light Einstein found in the principle of 

As we have seen in Section 4 of the last chapter, Newtonian 
mechanics contained a relativity principle, which stated that the 
future motion of any object with respect to an inertial system 
can be predicted from its initial position and velocity with re- 
spect to this system, without any knowledge of the motion of 
the inertial system itself. 

Now, if we disregard the existence of the ether, the null 
result of Michelson's experiment means exactly that the result 
can be predicted from the experimental arrangement in the 
laboratory without any knowledge of its speed with respect 
to the celestial bodies. Since similar statements could be made 
for other optical phenomena, Einstein proposed to extend the 
relativity principle of Newtonian mechanics to include optical 
phenomena in the following form: "The future course of op- 
tical phenomena may be predicted from the conditions of the 
experiment relative to the laboratory in which it is carried out, 
without knowing the velocity of the laboratory in the universe." 
Thus, according to Einstein, the connection between mechanical 
and optical laws is not based on a reduction of optics to mechan- 
ics, but rather on the fact that one and the same general law 
holds for both. 

Besides this "principle of relativity," Einstein needed a second 
principle dealing with the interaction of light and motion. He 
investigated the influence of the motion of the source of light on 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

the velocity o the light emitted by it. From the standpoint of the 
ether theory, it is self-evident that it makes no difference whether 
or not the source of light moves; light considered as mechanical 
vibration in the ether is propagated with a constant velocity with 
respect to the ether. This velocity depends only on the elasticity 
and density of the ether. 

Dropping the ether theory of light, Einstein had to reformu- 
late this law into a statement about observable facts. There is one 
system of reference, F (the fundamental system), with respect 
to which light is propagated with a specific speed, c. No matter 
with what velocity the light source moves with respect to the 
fundamental system (F), the light emitted is propagated with 
the same specific velocity (c) relative to F. This statement is 
usually called the "principal of the constancy of the speed of 

The constancy of the speed of light has been confirmed em- 
pirically from the observation in double stars. They are stars of 
approximately equal masses, which are close together and re- 
volve about each other, and are well known to astronomers. If 
the velocity of light depended on the velocity of the source, then 
as the stars revolve, the time taken for light to reach the earth 
from the member of the pair that is approaching the earth will 
be shorter than the corresponding time of the light from the 
receding member. Analysis of the two beams of light has shown 
that there is no observable effect from the velocity of the source. 

4. Consequences of Einstein's Two Hypotheses 

It was a characteristic feature of Einstein's mode of 
work to deduce from his fundamental principles all the logical 
consequences to the limit. He showed that from these hypotheses, 
which appeared quite harmless and plausible, a rigorous de- 
duction led to results that seemed very novel and in part even 
"incredible." From these results he went on to others, which not 
only seemed incredible but were even pronounced "paradoxi- 
cal," "absurd," and "incompatible with sound logic and psy- 

There are at present thousands of papers in which attempts 
are made to explain Einstein's theory to the lay public. It is not 
the purpose of this book to go into all the details of his theories, 
but to give a description of Einstein's personality and his rela- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

tion to his environment. It is necessary, however, to go into his 
scientific work to a certain extent in order to give the reader 
some idea of the manner in which he attacked scientific prob- 
lems in comparison with that of other scientists. In particular 
we should try to understand how it happened that his theories 
not only were of interest to physicists, but also stimulated and 
excited philosophers, thus indirectly stirring up a public that 
had only slight interest in scientific questions but that partici- 
pated in the general intellectual life of our period. 

From the two basic assumptions Einstein was able to conclude 
not only that the mechanistic theory of light was erroneous, but 
that even the Newtonian mechanics of material objects could 
not be generally valid. This result can be fairly easily under- 
stood if we trace it back to the way Einstein speculated on the 
properties of light as early as at the age of sixteen. 

While still a student, Einstein had pictured to himself the 
remarkable things that would occur if a body could travel with 
the speed of light at the rate of 186,000 miles per second. Let 
us consider the fundamental system (F) and a laboratory (L) 
for optical experiments which moves with constant velocity (v) 
with respect to F. Let there be a source of light (R) at rest in F, 
from which a beam of light is propagated with velocity c in the 
same direction as the laboratory (L) is moving. Now, if the 
velocity (V) of the laboratory (L) is equal to the velocity of 
light (c) then, according to Newtonian mechanics, the ray of 
light will be stationary with respect to the laboratory. No vibra- 
tion is registered in L. Since light does not move with respect 
to L, there are no rays in L, and the usual experiments of reflec- 
tion and refraction cannot be performed (fig. i). 

It is, of course, imaginable that in such a rapidly moving sys- 
tem (L) there would no longer be any optical phenomena in 
the ordinary sense. This occurrence, however, would be incon- 
sistent with Einstein's principle of relativity in optics. For accord- 
ing to this principle, all optical experiments should give the 
same result whatever the speed (V) of the laboratory may be. 

The same difficulty appears if we compare directly the results 
of Einstein's two principles (relativity and constancy) within 
the ether theory of light. We consider again a laboratory that 
is moving with the speed of light (c) relative to the fundamental 
system (F) . Suppose a mirror is set up in L to reflect the beam of 
light emitted by a source that is at rest in L. With respect to L 
this reflection is just the ordinary occurrence of light reflected by 
a mirror at rest. According to the principle of constancy, how- 




3T L 






This diagram represents light waves propagated in a horizontal direction through 
the ether. If T is a half-period of the light, the first line represents the state of the 
wave at the time T after the emission from the source R. The other lines represent 
the states of the same wave after the times 2T, 3T, and 4T respectively. If a device 
is placed at a fixed spot in the ether it will record the state of the wave (along the 
line OA) at the consequent instances of time T, 2T, 3T, and 4.T. These states are rep- 
resented by the interrupted lines. They indicate a vibration. But if the device of 
registration is moving with the speed of light in the direction of the wave propaga- 
tion, it is recording the states of waves along OB. They are represented by a thick 
line. It is clear that no vibration is recorded by the moving instrument. Briefly, there 
is no light for a recording instrument moving with the speed of light 

"Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

ever, nothing is changed if we assume the source of light at rest 
in F. Then, however, the beam of light can never be reflected, 
since both the light and the mirror are traveling in the same 
direction with the same velocity (c). The light can never catch 
up to the mirror. Thus there would be again an influence of the 
speed of the laboratory on the optical phenomena within, and 
therefore a violation of Einstein's principle of relativity. 

If we accept Einstein's two basic hypotheses, then the above 
considerations lead us to the conclusion: it is not possible 
for a laboratory (L) to move with velocity of light (c ) with re- 
spect to the fundamental system (F) ; for if that were possible, 
the relativity principle could not be valid. Or, since the labora- 
tory is a material body like any other, no material body can 
move with the velocity of light (c). 

This conclusion may at first seem absurd. It is reasonable to 
think that any velocity can be attained by the continual addi- 
tion of even a certain small increment of velocity. For, according 
to Newton's law of force, every force imparts to a body upon 
which it acts an additional velocity that is smaller the greater 
its mass is. One need only to let a force, no matter how small, 
act long enough on a body, and its velocity can be increased 
beyond any magnitude whatever. This circumstance shows the 
incompatibility of Einstein's principles with Newtonian me- 
chanics; the former demand the impossibility of the velocity of 
light for material bodies, while the latter affords the possibility, 

In Einstein's mechanics, therefore, the velocity of light in 
empty space plays a very special role. It is a velocity that cannot 
be attained or exceeded by any material body. We thus find an 
intimate connection created between mechanical and optical 
phenomena. Furthermore, owing to this circumstance, it becomes 
meaningful to speak of "small" or "great" velocity without fur- 
ther qualification. It means that the velocity is "small" or "great" 
in comparison with the velocity of light. 

5. Relativity of Time 

Not only did Einstein's fundamental principles give 
rise to results conflicting with Newtonian mechanics; they also 
led to drastic changes in our use of the words "space" and "time." 
The laws of physics contain statements about phenomena whose 
effects can be observed in terms of measuring rods and clocks, 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

and much can be deduced about their behavior from Einstein's 

Let us consider a situation similar to the one in the previous 
section. A laboratory system (L) moves with constant velocity 
(y, smaller than c) with respect to a fundamental system (F). 
There is a source of light (S) and a mirror (M) at a distance 
(d) from S in the laboratory (L) such that the light from S 
travels to M, is reflected, and returns to S, and such that the 
direction of the ray SM is perpendicular to the direction of the 
velocity v of L in respect to F. In going from the source (5) to 
the mirror (Af ) and back, the light has to travel a distance zd 
measured by yardsticks attached to L, but by yardsticks attached 
to F the path is longer because the mirror (M) is moving with 

respect to F. Let the length of this path be 2^*. The ratio -=%> 

which will be designated by ^ for the sake of conciseness, is easily 
calculated. It requires no greater mathematical knowledge than 

the Pythagorean theorem, and its expression is ^ = 

As v is smaller than c, ^ is greater than i. ^ is not much greater 
than i if v is very small compared to c, but becomes very large 
as v approaches c. 

In order to determine the dependence of (^) upon (v) we 
have to consider the time required for light to travel from 
the source S to mirror M and back to S. Some sort of a time- 
measuring device, such as a clock on the wall, a pocket watch on 
the table, a pendulum hanging from the ceiling, or an hour-glass, 
is needed in the laboratory (L). The time interval between the 
starting out of the light ray from S and its return is measured 
in terms of the time that the hand of a clock or watch takes 
to move through a certain angle, the pendulum to make a cer- 
tain number of oscillations, or a certain amount of sand to flow 
through the hour-glass. The unit of time is a certain arbitrary 
angle of the clock or watch, an arbitrary number of pendulum 
oscillations, or an arbitrary quantity of sand. 

Now, the constancy of the velocity of light means that the 
quotient of the distance traveled by the light ray divided by the 
time taken is equal to a constant (c\ whatever the speed (v} of 
the source may be. The value of the distance is d if we measure 
it with the yardstick attached to L, and d* if we use the yard- 
stick attached to F. Thus if we designate the time interval for 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

the light to go from S to M and back by / if we use the L-yard- 
stick and by 2* if we use the F-yardstick, we have c id/t 

and c = 2d*/t*> and hence ///*== ^j* = k (%- 2). This 
MM Mi M 2 


The source of light S and the mirror M are moving with one and the same speed 
v with respect to the ether, while light itself travels at speed c. The left diagram 
shows a light ray emitted from S and reflected by M back to S. The line SM is the 
trace of the ray on a screen that participates in the motion of S and M. The time t 
of the relection is t = 2d/c, according to the principle of relativity. The right diagram 
shows the trace of the same light ray on a screen that is at rest in the ether and that 
does not participate in the motion of S and M. According to the principle of con- 
stancy we obtain t* = . If we consider the rectangular triangle SMiSi, it follows 

from the Pythagorean theorem that (d*) 2 = d 2 + (vt*/2) 2 . If we substitute the 
results of the principles of relativity, d = ct/2, and of constancy, d* = ct*/2 5 we 

means, however, that the result of the measurement depends 
on f( f and consequently on v. The greater the velocity of the labo- 
ratory (L) with respect to the system (F), the greater is the angle 
through which the hand of the clock turns while the light travels 
to the mirror and back. Similarly with a pendulum and an hour- 
glass, the greater is the number of oscillations and the quantity of 
sand. Therefore, by measuring this time interval, the observer in 
L should be able to determine the velocity (y} by observations 
conducted solely in his laboratory L. This, however, conflicts 
with Einstein's principle of relativity. 

The contradiction arises from a traditional assumption that is 
based on Newton's idea of absolute time. According to Newton, 
all clocks, watches, hour-glasses, and any other time-measuring 
devices function at exactly the same rate, no matter what their 
velocities are. In particular, a clock in the laboratory system (L) 
runs at exactly the same rate as a clock firmly attached to the 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

fundamental system (JF). If this Is so, t cannot differ from /*. 
On the other hand, we have derived from Einstein's two hy- 
potheses that /* = ty. This means that the time ** is different 
from /, and that the difference depends upon \* As \ depends 
upon z>, the rate of a time-keeper depends upon the velocity (ti) 
of its motion. Hence if Einstein's hypotheses are accepted, the 
traditional assumption must be dropped, that the rate of a time- 
keeper is independent of its speed. In order to build up a theory 
of light and motion that is consistent with Einstein's hypotheses, 
we have to assume that the clock In the laboratory (L) runs 
slower than that in the fundamental system (F), the rate depend- 
ing upon the speed (v) of L relative to F. Then, while the hands 
of the clock in F rotate through an angle (a), that of the clock 
in L rotate through the smaller angle a/\; while the pendulum 
in F makes n oscillations, that in L makes only n/\; while q 
ounces of sand run through the hour-glass in F, only q/\ ounces 
run in L; hence the time interval for light to travel from StoM 
and back as measured by any time-measuring device attached 
to L will depend only on the velocity (ti) of L and not on the 
special kind of device that we use. 

Thus an entirely new property of time-keepers, which is not 
consistent with the traditional view, has been deduced from 
Einstein's two fundamental hypotheses. A moving clock, no 
matter what its construction, runs slower than an identical clock 
that is at rest. This is a physical fact that may be true or false, 
but there is nothing "paradoxical" about it. 

Einstein even indicated a method whereby this assertion could 
be subjected to direct experimental verification. He pointed out 
that atoms could be used as natural clocks since they emit elec- 
tromagnetic waves of certain definite frequencies. These fre- 
quencies of oscillation can be taken as natural time units for the 
atom, and frequencies of one group of atoms at rest in the lab- 
oratory can be compared with those of another group moving 
at a great velocity. The comparison of the frequencies can 
be made by means of a spectograph. The radiation of definite 
frequencies emitted by atoms form distinct spectral lines on 
photograph plates, with the position of the lines arranged ac- 
cording to the magnitude of the frequency. Einstein's result 
would be verified if the spectral lines of the moving atoms were 
shifted slightly to the low-frequency side as compared with the 
spectral lines of the stationary atoms. Actually tills experiment 
was carried out in 1936 by H. Ives, of the Bell Telephone Labora- 
tories, New York City, with positive result. 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

This effect must, of course,, be distinguished from the so-called 
Doppler effect, which is also an alteration of the frequencies 
of radiation due to the motion of the atoms. The Einstein effect,, 
however, is independent of the direction of motion of the atoms, 
while the Doppler effect depends critically on the direction. The 
shift has the greatest value if the motion of the atoms has a 
direction opposite to the velocity of the mirror or screen by 
which the light is intercepted. 

There was something of a sensation when Einstein pointed 
out that the beat of the human heart is also a sort of clock and 
the rate of its beating must also be affected by its motion. Con- 
sider a person at rest in F whose heart beats at the rate of 70 per 
minute. If this same person moves with velocity v relative to F, 

then his heart will only beat 2- times a minute. But it must be 



remembered that it is ~ as measured by a clock fixed in F; if 


measured by a clock that travels with the person, this clock 
itself will move slower and the heart-beat will then be just 70. 
Since the same retardation likewise affects all the metabolic 
processes in the body, it can be said that the person moving with 
the system L "ages" less than a person remaining in F. Such a 
circumstance may sound novel, but it cannot account sufficiently 
for the impression that this new physical theory made upon the 
masses of the public. For there was an impression that all our 
thinking about the universe had suffered a severe shock. 

In the fall of 1912 I first realized that Einstein's theory of the 
"relativity of time" was about to become a world sensation. At 
that time, in Zurich, I saw in a Viennese daily newspaper the 
headline: "The Minute in Danger, a Sensation of Mathematical 
Science." In the article a professor of physics explained to an 
amazed public that by means of an unprecedented mathematical 
trick a physicist named Einstein had succeeded in proving that 
under certain conditions time itself could contract or expand, 
that it could sometimes pass more rapidly and at other times 
more slowly. This idea changed our entire conception of the 
relation of man to the universe. Men came and went, generations 
passed, but the flow of time remained unchanged. Since Ein- 
stein this is all ended. The flow of time itself can be changed, 
and at that by a "mathematical" trick. To most people this ap- 
peared incomprehensible. Some rejoiced that anything so ab- 
surd could happen and that traditional science, which is always 
unpopular with some people, had suffered such a defeat. Others 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

were vexed that something should happen which ran counter 
to all common sense. People were Inclined to regard it as a phan- 
tasm of the mathematicians, or as an exaggeration by an author 
desirous of creating a sensation. At any rate, it was exciting that 
something of the sort could happen and that our generation was 
chosen to witness the overthrow of the foundations of the 

How did it happen that something of this kind, in part ex- 
citing and in part absurd, was ascribed to Einstein's theory? 
We saw above that it is actually a statement about concrete, ob- 
servable events carried out with definite physical apparatuses. 
Why did people like to present Einstein's clear deductions about 
physical experiments in a semi-mystical and incomprehensive 
language ? 

The reason is that Einstein not only asserted the existence of 
previously unknown physical occurrences, but also proposed to 
describe these new phenomena in a language by which they 
might be expressed most simply. The usual mode of expression 
in physics was intended to present as simply as possible phe- 
nomena that had already been known for a long time. To Ein- 
stein this traditional language of physics proved to be too incon- 
venient and complicated for the presentation of the newly 
discovered or predicted phenomena. 

In ordinary physics the duration of an event was defined by the 
rotation of the hands of a clock or by the number of oscillations 
of a pendulum. This was a clear-cut definition as long as one 
believed that the functioning of such a mechanism was un- 
affected by its motion. But if Einstein's deductions from his 
postulates are correct, then with moving clocks different dura- 
tions of time will be obtained for the same physical event. As we 
saw above, the duration of the time taken for light to travel 
from the source (S) to a mirror (M) and back to S depends on 
whether the interval is measured by a clock at rest in the funda- 
mental system (F) or by one in the laboratory (L) moving with 
velocity v with respect to F. 

In order to express this situation most simply, Einstein pro- 
posed to speak no longer of the "duration of an event" without 
further qualification, but to speak of the "duration relative to 
a specific frame of reference." By this he meant duration meas- 
ured with the aid of a clock firmly attached to this specific frame 
of reference. The physical situation provides no basis for select- 
ing one of these measurements in preference to others and 
describing it as the "actual duration" in contrast to others that 
are "apparent durations." For, in accordance with the princi- 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

pie of relativity, the duration of a specific occurrence in a labora* 
tory should be independent of the velocity (V) of the laboratory^ 
provided clocks are used that are at rest with respect to L. By no 
argument, however, one can be forced to accept Einstein's pro- 
posal. One can also describe the above situation by saying: "The 
true duration of an event is the duration measured by means 
of the clock of a specific system of reference. Every other dura- 
tion is only an illusion due to deliberate alteration in the rate 
of the clock." This statement conveys exactly the same meaning 
about observable facts except that a specific reference frame is 
introduced, which on physical grounds is unnecessary. 

Many authors have interpreted Einstein's clear and unequivo- 
cal statement by the apparently profound but in reality meaning- 
less statement: "Einstein said that sometimes time flows rapidly 
and sometimes slowly." Indeed, to say that time flows is a figure 
of speech that is only partly appropriate to the description of the 
physical phenomena. To speak of "more rapid flow" is to take a 
simple metaphor seriously. If one differentiates between state- 
ments about new physical occurrences and the proposal for a 
new mode of expression, one can formulate what is exactly meant 
by claiming the "relativity of time." It means to state: if we use 
the expression "time interval with respect to a specific system of 
reference," we can describe the phenomena in a simpler way 
than by using the traditional expression "time interval without 
specification." Einstein's relativity of time is a reform in seman- 
tics, not in metaphysics. 

6. Relativity of Other Physical Concepts 

If an investigation similar to the one on the duration 
of time as measured by clocks is carried out for "intervals in 
space" as measured by measuring rods, the length of a yard- 
stick must also be affected by its motion. I shall not discuss this 
point in further detail, since we have already become acquainted 
with the method by which such results are obtained. I shall only 
state Einstein's proposal that since moving measuring rods 
change their lengths relative to resting rods, one should speak 
only of "length relative to a specific system" and not of "length" 
as such. 

Another consequence of Einstein's basic hypotheses is that a 
statement like "two events at different places occur simultane- 
ously" is better formulated with respect to a specific system of 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

reference. An observer in Chicago may receive simultaneously 
radio signals from two points at equal distances from Chicago. 
He would say that they were sent out at one and the same time, 
but an interceptor on a moving train receiving the same signals 
would not receive them simultaneously if they are sent out ac- 
cording to conventional clocks. Einstein therefore proposed 
that the word "simultaneous" should likewise be introduced 
only in the combination "simultaneous relative to a specific sys- 
tem of reference." This would be again an improvement in 
semantics. "Simultaneity" without specification is an expression 
of little practical use. 

Because of the continuity of laws, Newtonian mechanics must 
become invalid also for particles with velocities near to the veloc- 
ity of light. Einstein soon found out that his hypotheses could 
be put to a very important task. They became an instrument for 
deriving from the laws of physics that are valid only for small 
velocities laws that are generally valid for all velocities. As we 
have learned already, it follows from Einstein's two hypotheses 
that Newton's law of mechanics cannot be valid for great veloci- 
ties. For if it were, it would be possible, even by a small constant 
force, to accelerate a mass gradually until it attains the speed 
of light. 

Einstein started from the assumption that for small velocities 
(i.e., much smaller than the speed of light, c} every mass moves 
according to Newton's laws of motion. By applying the pro- 
cedure mentioned above, Einstein succeeded in deriving from the 
Newtonian laws the laws of motion for high speed. The chief 
result obtained in this way is the rather startling fact that the 
mass of a body is not constant; like the duration of time and the 
length of a measuring rod, it is dependent on its velocity. The 
mass increases with velocity in such a way that as the velocity 
becomes very great, the mass also becomes very great. A given 
force will produce smaller and smaller change in the actual 
velocity the more it approaches the velocity of light. For this 
reason no particle can ever actually attain the velocity of light, 
no matter how great a force acts on it and for how long a time. 

Proceeding to the domain of electromagnetic phenomena, 
Einstein was again led to the conclusion that electric and mag- 
netic field strengths are also "relative quantities." Every helpful 
description of electric or magnetic field strength must contain 
not only their magnitude but also the system with respect to 
which they are measured. 

The necessity of this is easily seen. When an electric charge 


^Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

is at rest in L, it possesses an electric field only "relative to L/' 
There is no magnetic field relative to L since an electric charge 
at rest exerts no magnetic force. However, when this same sit- 
uation is described relative to F, the electric charge is moving 
with a velocity v; this means that there is an electric current. 
Since every electric current exerts a magnetic force, it is appro- 
priate to say that there is magnetic field "relative to F/' The ex- 
istence of these fields is, of course, a physical fact. But their de- 
scriptions "relative to L" and "relative to F" are different. 

7, Equivalence of Mass and Energy 

From the same hypotheses Einstein was able to draw 
still another conclusion that at first one can hardly believe is con- 
tained in them. If an agglomeration of masses is formed or falls 
apart under production of kinetic energy or radiation the sum 
of the masses after the agglomeration or disintegration is smaller 
than before. The produced energy is given by E = me 2 , where 
m is the loss of mass. This statement may be considered as a law 
about the "transformation of mass into energy." In a process 
where there is such a transformation from mass to energy or vice 
versa, the energy of the system will not be conserved unless ac- 
count is taken for the gain or loss due to the change in mass. 

This law has proved to be of immense significance in the de- 
velopment of our knowledge of the interior of the atom. Ac- 
cording to our modern conception of the atom, it consists of a 
massive central core with positive charge, which is called the 
nucleus, and around it a number of negatively charged particles, 
called electrons, circulating at great speed. The nucleus itself is 
a complex structure built up of two kinds of particles, the posi- 
tively charged protons, which are the nuclei of the simplest 
atom, hydrogen, and neutrons that are exactly like protons ex- 
cept for the lack of any electric charge. The various atoms found 
in nature differ only by the difference in the number of protons 
and neutrons they possess in the nucleus, the heavier atoms con- 
taining more particles and hence being of more complex struc- 
ture. As stated already, hydrogen, the lightest atom, has a nu- 
cleus that is simply a proton. The next lightest atom is helium, 
whose nucleus contains two protons and two neutrons. These 
four particles are bound very tightly together in the nucleus by 
certain nuclear forces. It is one of the most important prob- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

lems of modern physics to Investigate the strength, character, 
and quality of these nuclear forces which bind the atomic nuclei 

A measure of the strength with which particles in the nucleus 
are packed together can be obtained by considering how much 
energy is necessary to pry the particles loose and separate them 
so they are all a large distance apart from one another. This 
energy is known as the binding energy of a nucleus. Now, ac- 
cording to Einstein's theory, this energy () which is produced 
by the formation of the nucleus must appear as loss of mass due 
to the agglomeration. This means that the masses of the indi- 
vidual protons and neutrons added together are by E/c 2 greater 
than the mass of the nucleus where these particles are bound 
together. Thus by measuring the masses of the protons and neu- 
trons while they are free and the mass of the nucleus, it is possible 
to obtain the binding energy of the nucleus. Such measurements 
have been carried out for many of the atoms found in nature, 
and we are now able to classify according to how strongly the 
particles in the nuclei are bound together. These results have 
been of immense value in the planning and interpretation of re- 
cent researches on the artificial transmutation of atoms, where 
by bombarding various atomic nuclei with protons, neutrons, 
and other similar particles, new atoms have been produced. 

Einstein's mass-energy relation has also for the first time in 
history made possible the solution of the problem of the source 
of the sun's energy. The sun has been radiating heat and light 
at the same rate as it is now doing for billions of years. If that 
energy had come from ordinary combustion, such as the burn- 
ing of coal, the sun would have cooled off by now. The problem 
had the scientists completely baffled until Einstein V equation 
E = me 2 appeared. The velocity of light (c) is a very large 
number, and with this squared, the formula states that a small 
quantity of mass can transform into a very large amount of 
energy. For this reason, by losing only an immeasurable amount 
of mass, the sun has been able to continue radiating for so long, 
and will continue to do so for billions of years to come. The 
actual mechanism of the transformation of mass to energy occurs 
in nuclear reactions that are going on in the interior of the sun. 
It is believed now that they ultimately boil down to the forma- 
tion of helium nuclei from hydrogen. In this "packing effect" 
as we have learned already, mass is lost and radiation emitted. 

This possibility of using mass as a source of energy has aroused 
very optimistic hopes that methods of liberating the energy 


Beginning of a Neiv Era m Physics 

stored in the atom as mass for practical use might be found. 
There has also been, on the other hand, a very frightening pros- 
pect that such a process might be used to produce an explosive 
so devastating that a pound of it would completely annihilate 
everything within a radius of many miles. This foreboding was 
fulfilled forty years later when the first atomic bomb destroyed 

To Einstein, however, the main value of his result was not in 
the applications, no matter how numerous or important. To 
himself his principal achievement was to have deduced the law 
E = me 2 from the relativity principle. It was in accord with 
Einstein's conception of the universe to strive continually for the 
discovery of simple, logical bridges between the laws of nature. 
The wealth of conclusions derived from his two hypotheses con- 
stitutes what has been known since as the "theory of relativity." 
Einstein had struck a rich well of information about nature, 
which would yield knowledge for many decades to come. 

8. Theory of Brownian Motion 

In the same year (1905) Einstein discovered new fundamen- 
tal laws in two fields outside the theory of relativity. At the time 
when Einstein came to Bern, he was intensely occupied with the 
problem of light and motion, But he saw that the final goal could 
be attained only by attacking the problems from various angles. 
One of the paths to the goal, he realized, was to investigate the 
relations between light and heat, and those between heat and 

It had been known for some time that heat is connected with 
the irregular motion of molecules. The higher the temperature, 
the more violent is this motion. The statistical behavior of par- 
ticles in such irregular motion had been investigated chiefly by 
the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79) and the 
Austrian Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906). It had been assumed 
even before, that the kinetic energy of the molecules is propor- 
tional to the absolute temperature. At the time of Maxwell and 
Boltzmann, however, the molecular constitution of matter was 
still a hypothesis which could be doubted. It enabled many differ- 
ent phenomena to be explained very simply, but there was as yet 
no very direct proof of the existence of the molecule. Further- 
more, it had not yet been possible to obtain an accurate value of 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

such a significant quantity as the number of molecules in a unit 
volume of matter. Estimates of this number had been made by 
such men as the Austrian physicist Loschmidt (1865), but they 
were based on involved and rather indirect methods. Einstein 
strongly felt the necessity of investigating this matter more 
thoroughly and obtaining a more direct proof of molecular 

It had long been known that small but microscopically visible 
particles, when suspended in a fluid with approximately the 
same density, exhibit a constant, apparently irregular zigzag 
motion. It had been discovered by the Scottish botanist Robert 
Brown for pollen dust suspended In water, and for this reason 
it is known as Brownian motion. It is not caused by any external 
influence jarring the vessel or by currents of water in the vessel, 
and the agitation increases in Intensity when the temperature 
of the water Is raised. For this reason it had been conjectured 
that the motion is connected with the heat motion of the mole- 
cules. According to this view, the kinetic energy of the water 
molecules In constant collision with the microscopic particles 
produces irregular forces In random directions, which give rise 
to the observed motions. 

In 1902 Einstein had restated Boltzmann's theory of ran- 
dom motion in a simplified form. He now treated the Brown- 
ian motion with this method and arrived at a surprisingly simple 
result. He showed that the results of the kinetic theory of mole- 
cules should also hold for particles visible by microscope for 
instance, that the average kinetic energy of the particles in the 
Brownian motion should have the same value as that for the 
molecules. Hence, by observing the motion of the microscop- 
ically visible particles, much valuable information could be 
obtained about the Invisible molecules. In this way Einstein was 
able to derive a formula which stated that the average displace- 
ment of the particles in any direction increases as the square root 
of the time. He showed (1905) how one can determine the num- 
ber of molecules In a unit volume by measuring the distances 
traveled by the visible particles. 

The actual observations were later made by the French physi- 
cist Jean Perrin, who completely verified Einstein's theory. The 
phenomenon of Brownian motion has subsequently always been 
included among the best "direct" proofs of the existence of the 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

9. Origin of the Quantum Theory 

To Einstein it was always clear that his theory of rela- 
tivity could not claim (and, indeed,, it never did claim) to solve 
all the mysteries of the behavior of light. The properties of light 
investigated by Einstein concerned only a certain group of phe- 
nomena dealing with the relation between the propagation of 
light and moving bodies. For all these problems light could be 
conceived along the lines of traditional physics as undulatory 
electromagnetic processes which filled space as a continuum. 
By the theory of relativity it was assumed that some objects can 
emit light of this nature, and no attempt was made to analyze 
the exact process by which light is emitted or to investigate 
whether it sufficed for a derivation of all the laws for the inter- 
action of light with matter. 

The investigations on the nature of light and its interaction 
with matter, however, were to lead to the rise of the "quantum 
theory/' a revolution in physical thought even more radical than 
the theory of relativity. And in this field,, too, Einstein's genius 
had a profound influence on its early development. In order to 
make understandable the nature of Einstein's contributions, I 
shall describe briefly the situation prior to his researches. 

The simplest way of producing light is by heating a solid 
body. As the temperature rises, it begins to glow from a dull 
cherry red to a brighter orange, and then to blinding white light. 
The reason for this is that visible light consists of radiations of 
different frequencies ranging from red at the low end through 
the colors of the spectrum up to violet at the high end. The qual- 
ity of light emitted by a solid body depends solely on its 
temperature; at low temperatures the low-frequency waves pre- 
dominate and hence it looks red; at higher temperatures the 
shorter wave lengths appear and mingle with the red to give the 
white color. 

Attempts to explain this change in quality of light with tem- 
perature on the basis of nineteenth-century physics had ended 
in failure, and this was one of the most important problems 
facing physicists at the beginning of the twentieth century. At 
that time the emission of light was thought to be produced by 
the oscillations of charged particles (electrons), the frequency 
of light emitted being equal to the frequency of the vibration. 
According to Boltzmann's statistical law, already mentioned, 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

the average energy of oscillation of an electron should be exactly 
equal to the average kinetic energy of gas molecules, and hence 
simply proportional to the absolute temperature. But this led to 
the conclusion that the energy of vibrations is independent of the 
frequency of oscillation, and hence light of different frequencies 
will be emitted with the same energy. This conclusion obviously 
was contradicted by the observations on light emitted by heated 
bodies. In particular, we know that light of very short wave 
lengths is not emitted to any great extent by hot bodies. As the 
temperature increases, rays of increasingly higher frequencies 
appear, but yet at a given temperature there is no perceptible 
radiation above a certain definite frequency. Consequently it 
appeared that somehow it must be difficult to emit light of very 
high frequencies. 

Since all arguments based on the mechanistic theory of mat- 
ter and electricity led to results conflicting with experience, the 
German physicist Max Planck in the year 1900 introduced a 
new assumption into the theory of light emission. At first it 
appeared to be rather inconsequential, but in the course of time 
it has led to results of an increasingly revolutionary character. 
The turn in physics coincided exactly with the turn of the cen- 
tury. I shall sketch Planck's idea in a somewhat simplified and 
perhaps superficial form. 

According to Boltzmann's statistical law, the average energy 
of oscillation of an electron in a body is equal to the average 
kinetic energy of the molecules. The actual energies of the in- 
dividual atoms or molecules can, of course, have very different 
values; the statistical law only relates the average energy with 
the temperature. Boltzmann, however, had been able to derive 
a second result which determined the distribution of the energy 
of the particles around the average value. It stated that the num- 
ber of particles with a certain energy depends on the percentage 
by which this energy differs from the average value. The greater 
a deviation, the less frequent will be its occurrence. 

As Planck realized, the experimental results indicated that the 
oscillating electrons in a body cannot emit radiation with an 
arbitrary frequency. The lack of high-frequency radiation 
shows that the mechanism of radiation must be such that it 
is somehow difficult to emit light of high frequency. Since no 
explanation of such a mechanism existed at that time, Planck 
was led to make the new assumption that, for some reason 
as yet unknown, the energy of oscillation of the atoms can- 
not have just any value, but can only have values that are inte- 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

gral multiples of a certain minimum value. Thus, if this value 
is called e, then the energy of the oscillations can only have the 
discrete values 0, e, 2e ... or ne, whose n is zero or an integer. 
Consequently the radiation emitted or absorbed must take place 
in portions of amount e. Smaller amounts cannot be radiated or 
absorbed since the oscillation cannot change its energy by less 
than this amount. Planck then showed that if one wants to ac- 
count for the well-known fact that a shift to higher temperatures 
means a shift to higher frequencies, one has to take values 
for e that vary for different values of the frequencies of the 
oscillations, and in fact e has to be proportional to the fre- 

Thus he put e = fit/, where v is the frequency and h is the 
constant of proportionality, which has since then been called 
Planck's constant and has been found to be one of the most 
fundamental constants in nature. With this assumption Planck 
was immediately able to derive results in the theory of radiation 
that agreed with observations and thus removed the difficulties 
that had confronted the physicists in this field. 

10. Theory of the Photon 

Planck thought he was only making a minor adjust- 
ment in the laws of physics in formulating his hypothesis, but 
Einstein realized that if this idea was developed consistently it 
would lead to a rupture of the framework of nineteenth-century 
physics so serious that a fundamental reconstruction would be 
necessary. For if the electron can oscillate only with certain dis- 
crete values of energy, it contradicts Newton's laws of motion, 
laws which had been the bases for the whole structure of mech- 
anistic physics. 

Planck's hypothesis dealt only with the mechanism of radia- 
tion and absorption of light and stated that these processes could 
take place only in definite amounts. He said nothing about the 
nature of light itself while it is propagated between the point of 
radiation and that of absorption. Einstein set out to investigate 
whether the energy transmitted by light retained this discrete 
character during its propagation or not. He once expressed this 
dilemma by the following comparison: "Even though beer is 
always sold in pint bottles, it does not follow that beer consists 
of indivisible pint portions." 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Retaining the analogy, if we wish to investigate whether the 
beer in a barrel actually consists of definite portions or not, and 
if so whether this portion is a pint, two pints, or ten pints, we can 
proceed as follows: We take a number of containers, say ten to 
be definite, and pour the beer from the barrel at random into 
these containers. We measure the amount in each container and 
then pour back the beer into the barrel We repeat this process 
a number of times. If the beer does not come in portions, the 
average value of the beer poured into each container will be the 
same. If it consists of pint portions, there will be variations in 
the average values. For two pints the variations will be greater, 
and for ten they will be still greater. Thus by observing the dis- 
tribution of beer among the ten vessels, we can tell whether the 
barrel of beer consists of portions and what size they are. We 
can realize it easily by imagining the extreme case that the whole 
content of the barrel is one portion. 

The situation is similar in the case of radiation enclosed in a 
box. We can imagine this box to be divided into a number of 
cells of equal volume and consider the distribution of the energy 
of radiation in these cells. If the portions of radiation are large, 
the variations of energy among the cells will be large, and if they 
are small, these variations will be small. From the empirical law 
of distribution it follows that the variations in the violet light are 
greater than in the red light. Einstein drew the conclusions that 
violet light consists of a few large portions, while red light con- 
sists of many small ones. Exact calculations showed that the 
magnitude of the portions must be hv. Thus Einstein found that 
not only did emission and absorption of radiation take place in 
discrete amounts, but light itself must consist of definite por- 
tions. The name "photon" has since been given to the quantum 
of radiation. 

To this conclusion, which Einstein derived theoretically, he 
was able to point out an experimental verification. It had been 
known for some time that when light shines on certain metals, 
electrons are given off. Electrons are fundamental particles in 
physics which carry a negative electric charge and constitute the 
outer portion of the atom. In 1902 the German physicist Philipp 
Lenard discovered a very startling result of this emission of 
electrons. He found that the intensity of light falling on the 
metal had no eff ect on the energy with which the electrons are 
ejected from the metal, but that this energy depends only on the 
color or frequency of the light. No matter how far the source of 
light is moved away from the metal, the electrons are still ejected 
with the same velocity, though of course the number ejected is 


Beginning of a New Era in Physics 

smaller. But when violet light is used instead of red,, the velocity 
of the electrons is much greater. 

According to Einstein's view,, the explanation is quite simple* 
No matter what distance light of a certain color has traveled 
from the source, it still consists of the same portions of energy, 
the only difference being that, farther away from the source, the 
individual portions are spread out thinner. The ejection of 
an electron occurs when a whole quantum of radiation is ab- 
sorbed by a single electron, which then comes off with the 
energy of the photon. Thus the distance between the source and 
the metal has no effect on the energy of the single electron 
emitted. Furthermore, the difference between violet and red 
light is that a different amount of energy Is possessed by the 
photon. Hence an electron that absorbs a violet photon naturally 
comes off with higher velocity than one that absorbs a red 

To form another analogy, let us consider the bombardment 
of a fortification by machine guns and by heavy artillery. Even 
if the total weight of projectiles fired is the same in both cases, 
the effects produced are of a very different character. The 
machine-gun bullets make a very large number of small dents, 
while the artillery shells make a few big holes. Moreover, the 
average intensity of gunfire has very little effect on the magni- 
tude of the holes, but only on their number. 

With his hypothesis on the discontinuous nature of light Ein- 
stein threw doubt on the entire conception of a continuous field 
of force. If light consists of photons, the electric and magnetic 
fields cannot fill all space continuously, and the whole of the 
electromagnetic theory of light based on this concept has to be 
re-examined. The discontinuous structure is apparently incon- 
sistent, however, with some observed phenomena, in particular 
with interference and diffraction of light, which are explained 
so well by the theory of continuous waves. Einstein, who was 
well aware of this difficulty, looked upon his assumption only 
as a provisional hypothesis, without any lasting value. He there- 
fore entitled the paper in which he presented his discovery: 
"On a Heuristic Point of View Regarding the Production and 
Transformation of Light." 

It is interesting to note that Einstein's new quantum theory 
of light was based upon the research of two German physicists 
who were later to play important roles in his life. Max Planck 
was first to advocate the significance of Einstein's theory of 
relativity, and Philipp Lenard was to oppose it most vehemently 
on philosophical, political, and racial grounds. 




I. Professor at the University of Zurich 

The researches whose results Einstein published at 
Bern in 1905 were so unusual that to the physicists of the Swiss 
universities they seemed incompatible with the assigned work 
of a minor official of the patent office. Attempts were soon made 
to bring Einstein to teach at the University of Zurich. At this 
time Professor Kleiner was the leading personality in physics 
there. He was a man who realized that Einstein's papers re- 
vealed an unusual talent, but who did not really understand 
them. He felt it his duty to do the best for his university and en- 
deavored to appoint Einstein professor at Zurich. 

According to the regulations in force at Zurich as well as at 
other Germanic universities, no one could be appointed pro- 
fessor at a university unless he had previously been a Privat- 
dozent. This is a position for which there is no analogue in the 
universities of western Europe and America. A young man 
with scientific achievements may apply for permission to teach 
at a university. He has no obligations and can lecture as much 
or as little as he desires, but receives no remuneration except the 
usually very small fees paid by students who attend his lectures. 
Since for this reason the number of Privatdozenten does not 
have to be restricted, this system has the advantage that every 
young scientist has an opportunity to show his teaching abili- 
ties and the universities have a large number of candidates to 
choose from in appointing their professors. The disadvantage, 
of course, is that in practice only persons with private means or 
another position which supports them can enter this career. 
With his position at the patent office, Einstein was in the latter 

Professor Kleiner advised him to become a Privatdozent at the 
university of Bern, so that after a short while he could then be 
eligible for a professorship at Zurich. Although he did not like 
the idea of giving regular lectures, Einstein followed the advice. 
Consequently his lectures were not very well prepared, and 


Einstein at fragile 

since the students were not obliged to attend them, only a few 
friends came. Furthermore, Einstein was then in the midst of a 
veritable maelstrom of new discoveries and it was difficult to 
arrange his material in a way appropriate to the capacities of the 
average student. Professor Kleiner once came to Bern to hear 
Einstein lecture and afterward remarked to him that such lec- 
tures did not seem on a level fitted for the students. Einstein 
answered : "I don't demand to be appointed professor at Zurich." 

At that time the professorship of theoretical physics at the 
University of Zurich became vacant, but the board of edu- 
cation of the canton of Zurich, which was in charge of the 
university, had its own plans for this position. The majority of 
the board of education belonged to the Social Democratic Party, 
and they had in Zurich a party comrade who appeared to be a 
suitable candidate, from both the political and the scientific 
viewpoint. This man was Friedrich Adler, Einstein's former 
fellow student at the Zurich Polytechnic, who was then a Privat- 
dozent at the University of Zurich. As the son of the leader of 
the Austrian Social Democrats, he was held in high esteem by 
the party members in Zurich. Friedrich Adler was a man imbued 
with a fanatical love of truth and was interested in physics 
chiefly because of its philosophical aspects. He was in every re- 
spect a man who would not shrink from uttering what he re- 
garded as the truth even if it was to his own disadvantage. 
Learning that it was possible to obtain Einstein for the univer- 
sity, he told the board of education: "If it is possible to obtain a 
man like Einstein for our university, it would be absurd to 
appoint me. I must quite frankly say that my ability as a research 
physicist does not bear even the slightest comparison to Ein- 
stein's. Such an opportunity to obtain a man who can benefit us 
so much by raising the general level of the university should not 
be lost because of political sympathies." 

So in 1909, despite the political leaning of the board of educa- 
tion and the leading professor's disapproval of his mode of lec- 
turing, Einstein was appointed professor "extraordinary" at the 
University of Zurich. 

The call to Zurich gave Einstein for the first time a position 
with a certain public prestige. Most Privatdozenten feel that 
they have become important persons when they attain profes- 
sorial rank, for then they can lord it over the Dozenten instead 
of being passive objects to be dealt with by the university admin- 
istration. For Einstein this was naturally no cause for satisfac- 
tion. He had not suffered in any way while a Privatdozent, and 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

he did not have any desire to dominate others. Besides, he had 
not been anxious enough for the position to derive any great 
pleasure from its attainment. 

From the financial point of view, the position of a professor 
"extraordinary" was not very lucrative. His income was no larger 
than it had been at the patent office and, moreover, he could no 
longer lead an inexpensive and pleasant bohemian life now that 
he had acquired a certain social status in the city. Though he 
kept expenses at a minimum, he had to spend money for things 
from which he derived no pleasure, but which were required 
by his social position. In order to improve the financial situation, 
his wife took in students to board. He once said jokingly: "In 
my relativity theory I set up a clock at every point in space, but 
in reality I find it difficult to provide even one clock in my room." 

Einstein loved the city of Zurich, which had become his home. 
His wife also felt more at home here than anywhere else. Col- 
laboration with students and colleagues, which was now possi- 
ble, was a great stimulus to Einstein. Administrative duties and 
regular teaching, however, had few attractions and in certain 
respects many difficulties. This was due not only to the constraint 
a person of such great creative ability finds himself under when 
required to expend his efforts on tasks that do not appear im- 
portant, but also to Einstein's paradoxical relation to society, 
arising from his personality. 

The immediate impression that Einstein made on his environ- 
ment was a conflicting one. He behaved in the same way to every- 
body. The tone with which he talked to the leading officials of 
the university was the same as that with which he spoke to his 
grocer or to the scrubwoman in the laboratory. As a result of his 
great scientific discoveries, Einstein had already acquired a pro- 
found inner feeling of security. The pressure that had often 
burdened his youth was gone. He now saw himself in the midst 
of the work to which he was going to devote his life and to which 
he felt himself equal. Alongside this work the problems of daily 
life did not appear very important. Actually he found it very 
difficult to take them seriously. His attitude in intercourse with 
other people, consequently, was on the whole one of amuse- 
ment. He saw everyday matters in a somewhat comical light, 
and something of this attitude manifested itself in every word 
he spoke; his sense of humor was readily apparent. When some- 
one said something funny, whether intentionally or not, Ein- 
stein's response was very animated. The laughter that welled up 
from the very depth of his being was one of his characteristics 

Einstein at Prague 

that immediately attracted one's attention. To those about him 
his laughter was a source of joy and added to their vitality. Yet 
sometimes one felt that it contained an element of criticism, 
which was unpleasant for some. Persons who occupied an im- 
portant social position frequently had no desire to belong to a 
world whose ridiculousness in comparison to the greater prob- 
lems of nature was reflected in this laughter. But people of lesser 
rank were always pleased by Einstein's personality. 

Einstein's conversation was often a combination of inoffensive 
jokes and penetrating ridicule, so that some people could not 
decide whether to laugh or to feel hurt. Often the joke was that 
he presented complicated relationships as they might appear to 
an intelligent child. Such an attitude often appeared to be an 
incisive criticism and sometimes even created an impression of 
cynicism. Thus the impression Einstein made on his environ- 
ment vacillated between the two poles of childish cheerfulness 
and cynicism. Between these two poles lay the impression of a 
very entertaining and vital person whose company left one feel- 
ing richer for the experience. A second gamut of impression var- 
ied from that of a person who sympathized deeply and passion- 
ately with the fate of every stranger, to that of a person who, upon 
closer contact, immediately withdrew into his shell 

2. Appointment to Prague 

In the fall of 1910 there occurred a vacancy in the chair 
o theoretical physics at the German University in Prague. Such 
appointments were made at the recommendation of the faculty 
by the Emperor of Austria, who exercised his right through the 
Ministry of Education. The decisive man in the selection of 
the candidate was die physicist Anton Lampa, a man of very 
progressive tendencies as far as education was concerned. All his 
life he fought for the introduction of modern pedagogical meth- 
ods, for the freedom of teaching from reactionary influences, 
and for the extension of scientific and artistic education to the 
largest possible number of the population. There was a consid- 
erable gap between his high aspirations and his scientific capac- 
ities, however, and as a result he was animated by an ambition 
he could not satisfy. Since he was a man of high ethical ideals, he 
consciously sought to suppress this ambition, but the result was 
that it played an even greater role in his subconscious life. His 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

philosophical Weltanschauung was for the most part deter- 
mined by the positivistic philosophy of the physicist Ernst Mach, 
whose student he had been. It was Lampa's life goal to propa- 
gate Mach's views and to win adherents for them. 

When the question of filling the chair of theoretical physics 
came up, Lampa thought that here was an opportunity to ap- 
point someone who would teach physics in the spirit of Mach. 
In addition, it had always been his dream to enter the realm of 
the extraordinary and of the genius, and he wanted an outstand- 
ing scientist, not an average professor. Even though he realized 
that he himself was not so gifted, he was just enough to accept 
the presence of an outstanding man. 

Lampa had in mind two physicists who he thought would 
teach in the spirit of Mach and were acknowledged to have ex- 
traordinary capacities. The first was Gustav Jaumann, a pro- 
fessor at the Technical Institute in Brno, and the second was 
Einstein. Jaumann followed Mach in some peculiarities, chief 
among which was his aversion to the introduction of atoms 
and molecules in physics. Even when the atomic constitution 
of matter had been generally accepted as giving the best and 
simplest presentation of physical phenomena, Jaumann retained 
Mach's predilection and tried to build up a theory of continu- 
ously distributed matter. Since he had a great natural talent 
and imagination, he considered himself a neglected genius and 
developed an excessive vanity and sensitivity. Einstein, on the 
other hand, was influenced more by the spirit than by the letter 
of Mach's teachings. We have already seen in his work on 
Brownian motion that Einstein did not follow Mach's rejection 
of the atom., 

Since the regulations provided that the names of the proposed 
candidates be listed on the basis of their achievements, Einstein, 
whose writings in the years from 1905 to 1910 had already made 
a strong impression on the scientific world, was placed first and 
Jaumann second. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education first 
offered the position to Jaumann. The Austrian government did 
not like to appoint foreigners and preferred Austrians. But the 
ministry had not taken Jaumann's vanity and touchiness into 
account. He said: "If Einstein has been proposed as first choice 
because of the belief that he has greater achievements to his 
credit, then I will have nothing to do with a university that chases 
after modernity and does not appreciate true merit." Upon 
Jaumann's rejection of the offer, the government overcame its 
aversion to foreigners and offered the position to Einstein. He 


Einstein at Prague 

had some qualms about going to a foreign country., and his wife 
did not want to leave Zurich, but eventually he accepted it. One 
deciding factor was the circumstance that for the first time in 
his life he was to have a full professorship with adequate salary. 

There was one peculiar difficulty to be overcome, however, in 
taking up the position. The octogenarian Emperor Franz Josef 
was of the opinion that only a man who belonged to a recognized 
church should be a teacher at a university, and he refused to 
confirm the appointment of anyone who did not conform to 
this rule. Einstein's friends at the university who had proposed 
his appointment informed him of this circumstance. Since leav- 
ing the gymnasium in Munich, Einstein had not been an official 
member of any religious community, but in order to avoid this 
difficulty, he indicated that he was an adherent of the Jewish 
religion, to which he had belonged as a child. He did not go 
through any formal ceremony, but in the questionnaire that he 
had to fill out he simply wrote his religion was "Mosaic," as the 
Jewish creed was then called in Austria. 

When Einstein arrived in Prague he looked more like an 
Italian virtuoso than a German professor, and he had, more- 
over, a Slav wife. He was certainly unlike the average pro- 
fessor at the German University. Since he had been preceded 
by the reputation of being not an ordinary physicist but an ex- 
traordinary genius, everyone was curious to meet him. 

In Prague it was the custom for a newly arrived member of 
the faculty to pay a call on all his colleagues. In his good-natured 
way Einstein was ready to accept the advice of his friends and 
make the necessary calls, which numbered some forty. He also 
decided to take advantage of this opportunity to see various sec- 
tions of the romantic old city of Prague, and so he began to make 
his visits according to the location of the houses. All who made 
his personal acquaintance were immediately pleased by his nat- 
uralness, his hearty laughter, and the friendly and at the same 
time dreamy look in his eyes. But Einstein soon began to find 
the calls rather a nuisance. He felt that it was a waste of time to 
carry on conversations about trivialities and suddenly he stopped 
his visits. The professors upon whom he had not called were 
puzzled and offended at this neglect. Some people began to 
regard him as either proud or capricious, when the true explana- 
tion was that these colleagues lived in sections of the city that 
did not interest Einstein, or their names were too far back in the 
faculty directory. 

This aversion to all formality and ceremonial was a very im- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

portant trait in Einstein's character. It was particularly marked 
for ceremonies that were in any way depressing. Thus Einstein 
had an intense aversion to attending funerals, and on one occa- 
sion when he was in a funeral procession he remarked to his 
assistant, walking at his side: "Attending funerals is something 
one does to please the people around us. In itself it is meaning- 
less. It seems to me not unlike the zeal we polish our shoes with 
every day just so that no one will say we are wearing dirty shoes." 
Throughout his life Einstein had maintained this attitude of 
revolt against the customs of bourgeois life. 

3. Colleagues at Prague 

The University of Prague is the oldest university in 
central Europe. During the second half of the nineteenth cen- 
tury there had been German and Czech professors lecturing in 
their respective languages, but with political quarrels creating 
more and more difficulties, the Austrian government had in 1888 
decided to divide the university into two parts, thus creating a 
German and a Czech university. It is perhaps an interesting his- 
torical accident that the first rector of the German University, 
where Einstein was appointed, had been Ernst Mach. 

At the time of Einstein's arrival the two universities were 
completely separated and there were no relations between the 
professors of the two institutions. Even professors of the same 
subject had no personal contact and it frequently happened that 
two chemistry professors from Prague would meet for the first 
time at an international congress in Chicago. There was already 
a group among the Germans who propagated the idea of the 
"master race" and frowned upon any intercourse with "in- 
ferior races," The majority of the German professors had too 
little interest in politics or were too timid to oppose the powerful 
will of this group by entering into contact with the Czechs. 

Nevertheless, the general attitude of superiority and hostility 
against the Czechs was quite evident in the conversations among 
the German professors and their families. Comical stories were 
told of how Czechs behaved in society for which, in the Ger- 
mans' opinion, they were not suited. The situation may be de- 
scribed by the following instances: 

During a population census undertaken by the government, 
a professor of political science sent a circular letter to the mem- 


Einstein at Prague 

bers of the university faculty urging them to list all their serv- 
ants as German even if they were Czech. He reasoned as follows: 
Servants should only speak to their masters; since the latter are 
German, the language of all the servants must be German. 

Another professor, while walking with a colleague one day, 
saw a house sign that seemed about to fall down on the sidewalk. 
"It doesn't matter much/' he said, "since it is extremely probable 
that when it falls it will strike a Czech." 

One of the remarkable and frequently comical aspects of this 
hostility was that there was not even the slightest difference be- 
tween the Germans and the Czechs in Prague so far as race and 
origin were concerned. The question of which nationality one 
belonged to was often a question of personal taste and which 
offered opportunities for earning a living. 

Anton Lampa, Einstein's closest colleague, was the son of a 
Czech janitor. But, as frequently happened among the Czechs, 
the son had worked his way up, driven by his ambition and a 
great desire for knowledge and learning. Though his father was 
a Czech, he worked in a building belonging to Germans, so 
young Lampa attended German schools. He spoke Czech and 
German with equal facility, and upon graduating from the gym- 
nasium he was faced with the problem of deciding whether to 
attend the German or the Czech university. He chose the former 
and later became a student of Ernst MacL Yet despite his past 
Lampa was just as hostile to the Czechs as the other Germans. 
He was one of those who, for instance, refused to buy a post- 
card if the word "postcard" was printed on it in both languages, 
and demanded a card having only the German word on it. If 
the post-office clerk was a Czech, he would frequently say that 
such cards had all been sold out. The professor would then argue 
that it was the clerk's duty to keep cards with purely German 
text, and so a quarrel would begin. 

Under these circumstances it was difficult even for a German 
who disapproved of this hostile attitude to come into contact 
with the Czechs. The latter were very suspicious and sensitive 
and felt insulted by every thoughtless word. They suspected 
everyone of wishing to humiliate and disparage them, and as a 
result it was not easy for a well-meaning German to maintain 
friendly relations with the Cechs. It is not surprising, therefore, 
that Einstein hardly came in contact with them. He disapproved 
the standpoint of his colleagues and did not join in their dispar- 
aging anecdotes, but he did not become intimately acquainted 
with any Czechs. But Czech students did attend his lectures and 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

carry on scientific research, under his direction, in itself a rare 
occurrence at the German University. 

Among his closest colleagues Einstein was attracted most 
strongly by a mathematician named Georg Pick. He was some 
twenty years older than Einstein and was an extraordinary per- 
sonality,, both as a man and as a scientist. Pick was above all a 
creative mind in mathematical research. In very concise papers 
he published many precisely formulated ideas, which were later 
developed by others as independent branches of mathematics. 
Nevertheless, he never received much of the scientific recognition 
he deserved, since he was of Jewish ancestry and had rather an 
uncompromising nature. He held firmly to what he considered 
was right and did not make concessions of any kind. After his 
retirement at an age of over 80, he died in a Nazi extermination 

As a young man Pick had been an assistant of Ernst Mach's 
when Mach was professor of experimental physics at Prague. 
Einstein liked to hear Pick reminisce about Mach, and Pick was 
particularly fond of repeating statements by Mach that could be 
interpreted as anticipating Einstein's theories. Pick was also a 
good violinist, and through him Einstein became acquainted 
with a group of music-lovers and was urged to participate in 
chamber music. After that, Einstein had his regular quartet 

Einstein and Pick met almost daily and they discussed many 
problems together. In the course of long walks Einstein confided 
to Pick the mathematical difficulties that confronted him in his 
attempts to generalize his theory of relativity. Already at that 
time Pick made the suggestion that the appropriate mathemati- 
cal instrument for the further development of Einstein's idea 
was the "absolute differential calculus" of the Italian mathe- 
maticians Ricci and Levi-Civita. 

Einstein's immediate assistant at this time was a young man 
named Nohel. He was the son of a small Jewish farmer in a 
Bohemian village, and as a boy he had walked behind the plow. 
He had the quiet poise of a peasant rather than the nervous 
personality so often found among the Jews. He told Einstein a 
good deal about the condition of the Jews in Bohemia, and their 
conversations began to arouse Einstein's interest in the relation 
between the Jews and the world around them. Nohel told him 
about the Jewish peasants and tradesmen who in their daily 
activities used the Czech language. On the Sabbath, however, 
they spoke only German. For them this language, so close to 


Einstein at the time of his most intense scientific 

Einstein, Paul Ekrenfest, Paul Langevin, Kammerling-Qnnes, and 
Pierre Weiss at Ehrenjest's home, Leyden, the Netherlands 

Einstein at Prague 

Yiddish, was a substitute for Hebrew, which had long since been 
given up as the language of daily life. 

Another colleague with whom Einstein became quite intimate 
was Moritz Wintemitz, a professor of Sanskrit. He had five chil- 
dren to whom Einstein became greatly devoted, and he once 
remarked : "I am interested to see how a number of such com- 
modities produced by the same factory will behave." Professor 
Winternitz had a sister-in-law who very often accompanied Ein- 
stein at the piano when he played the violin. She was an elderly 
maiden lady whose life had been spent in giving piano lessons 
and who had thus acquired a somewhat dictatorial manner. 
She used to speak to Einstein as if she were addressing a pupil. 
Einstein often remarked: "She is very strict with me," or "She 
is like an army sergeant." 

When Einstein was to leave Prague, he had to promise her 
that he would recommend as his successor as professor of theo- 
retical physics only someone who could also replace him as her 
violin partner. When I went to Prague to replace Einstein and 
was introduced to her, she immediately insisted that I keep this 
promise by playing the violin. To my regret, I had to tell her 
I had never in my whole life had a violin in my hands. "So," she 
replied, "Einstein has disappointed me." 

4. The ]ew$ in "Prague 

The appointment as professor at Prague led Einstein 
to become a member of the Jewish religious community. Even 
though this relation was only formal and the contact was only 
a very loose one at that time, it was in this period of his life that 
perhaps for the first time since his childhood he came aware of 
the problems of the Jewish community. 

The position of the Jews in Prague was a peculiar one in many 
respects. More than half of the German-speaking inhabitants 
in Prague were Jewish, so that their part among the Germans, 
who comprised only about five per cent of the total population, 
was extraordinarily important. Since the cultural life of the Ger- 
mans was almost completely detached from that of the Czech 
majority, with separate German theaters, concerts, lectures, balls, 
and so on, it was not surprising that all these organizations and 
affairs were dependent on Jewish patronage. Consequently, for 
the great masses of the Czech people, a Jew and a German were 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

approximately the same. At the time when Einstein came to 
Prague, the World War I was just in the making and the Czechs 
felt that they were being driven into a war by the government 
against their own interests but in the interests of the hated Ger- 
mans. They looked upon every German and Jew as a represen- 
tative of a hostile power who had settled in their city to act as a 
watchman and informer against the Czech enemies of Austria. 
There is no doubt that there were some Jews, who, aping other 
Germans, somehow adapted themselves to this role of being 
policemen and instruments of oppression. But the core of the 
Jewish population was disgusted. 

On the other hand, the relation of the Jews to the other Ger- 
mans had already begun to assume a problematical character. 
Formerly the German minority in Prague had befriended the 
Jews as allies against the upward-striving Czechs, but these good 
relations were breaking down at the time when Einstein was 
in Prague. When the racial theories and tendencies that later 
came to be known there as Nazi creed were still almost un- 
known in Germany itself, they had already become an impor- 
tant influence among the Sudeten Germans. Hence a somewhat 
paradoxical situation existed for the Germans in Prague. They 
tried to live on good terms with the Jews so as to have an ally 
against the Czechs. But they also wanted to be regarded as 
thoroughly German by the Sudeten Germans, and therefore 
manifested hostility against the Jews. This peculiar situation 
was characterized outwardly by the fact that the Jews and their 
worst enemies met in the same cafes and had a common social 

At this time in Prague there was already a Jewish group who 
wanted to develop an independent intellectual life among the 
Jews. They disliked seeing the Jews taking sides in the struggle 
between Germans and Czech nationalists. This group was 
strongly influenced by the semi-mystical ideas of the Jewish phi- 
losopher Martin Buber. They were Zionists, but at that period 
they paid little attention to practical politics and concerned them- 
selves mainly with art, literature, and philosophy. Einstein was 
introduced to this group, met Franz Kafka, and became particu- 
larly friendly with Hugo Bergmann and Max Brod. 

Hugo Bergmann was then an official in the university library. 
He was a blond young man with a gentle, intelligent, and yet 
energetic personality. He was the center of a youthful group in 
Prague that attempted to create a Jewish cultural life not based 

Einstein at Prague 

on orthodox Judaism,, which approached the non-Jewish world 
with sympathetic understanding, not aversion or blind imita- 
tion. Bergmann based his theories not only on Jewish authors 
but also on German philosophers such as Fichte, who preached 
the cultivation of the national spirit. 

Even such an intelligent and ardent Zionist as Bergmann, 
however, could not interest Einstein in Zionism for the time be- 
ing. He was still too much concerned with cosmic problems, 
and the problems of nationality and of the relation of the Jews 
with the rest of the world appeared to him only as matters of 
petty significance. For him these tensions were only expressions 
of human stupidity, a quality that on the whole is natural to man 
and cannot be eradicated. He did not realize then that these 
troubles would take on later cosmic dimensions. 

At this time Max Brod was a young writer of multifarious 
interests and talents. He was also very much interested in his- 
torical and philosophical problems, and a in his novels he de- 
scribed the life of the Czech and other inhabitants of Prague and 
Bohemia. His novels were characterized by clear, rather ration- 
alistic analyses of psychological processes. 

In one of his novels, The Redemption of Tycho Brake, he 
described the last years of the great Danish astronomer Tycho 
Brahe, which were spent in Prague. The chief theme of the 
novel is the antithesis of the character of Tycho and of the young 
astronomer Kepler, whom the former had invited to work with 
him so as to have a collaborator who would add his young un- 
prejudiced creative ideas to Tycho's great experience and powers 
of observation. It was often asserted in Prague that in his por- 
trayal of Kepler, Brod was greatly influenced by the impression 
that Einstein's personality had made on him. Whether Brod 
did this consciously or unconsciously, it is certain that the figure 
of Kepler is so vividly portrayed that readers of the book who 
knew Einstein well recognized him as Kepler. When the fa- 
mous German chemist W. Nernst read this novel, he said to Ein- 
stein: "You are this man Kepler." 

5. Einstein's Personality Portrayed in a Novel 

It therefore seems appropriate to quote several pas- 
sages where Brod characterizes his Kepler and in which we may 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

perhaps find certain aspects of Einstein's personality. The words 
of a poet may be more impressive than the description of a 

Kepler's cairn, quiet nature sometimes aroused a feeling of 
uneasiness in the passionate Tycho. Brod describes Tycho's feel- 
ings toward Kepler in a way that is probably equally true of the 
attitudes of Einstein's scientific colleagues toward him: 

"Thus the storm raged in Tycho's spirit. He took the greatest pains 
to keep his feelings for Kepler free from alloy. ... In actual fact he 
really did not envy Kepler his success. At the very most, the self- 
evident and in all respects becoming and worthy manner in which 
Kepler had achieved renown sometimes excited in him an emotion 
bordering upon envy. But in general Kepler now inspired him with 
a feeling of awe. The tranquillity with which he applied himself to 
his labors and entirely ignored the warblings of flatterers was to Tycho 
almost superhuman. There was something incomprehensible in its 
absence of emotion, like a breath from a distant region of ice. . . . 
He recalled that popular ballad in which a LandsJ^necht had sold his 
heart to the Devil and had received in exchange a bullet-proof coat of 
mail. Of such sort was Kepler. He had no heart and therefore had 
nothing to fear from the world. He was not capable of emotion or 
of love. And for that reason he was naturally also secure against the 
aberrations of feelings. 'But I must love and err/ groaned Tycho. 
e l must be flung hither and thither in this hell, beholding him float- 
ing above, pure and happy, upon cool clouds of limpid blue. A spotless 
angel! But is he really? Is he not rather atrocious in his lack of 

This appearance of pure happiness, however, which the super- 
ficial observer was frequently inclined to ascribe to Einstein 
likewise, is certainly only an illustion. Tycho, who, as is well 
known, was the inventor of a cosmic system that represented 
a kind of compromise between the old Ptolemaic and the new 
Copernican system, was very curious to hear Kepler's opinion 
of this system. He always suspected that in his heart Kepler fa- 
vored Copernicus and his radically new theory. Kepler, how- 
ever, avoided the expression of any definite opinion on this sub- 
ject before Tycho. He discussed only concrete astronomical 
problems with him, no general theories. Tycho felt that this was 
an evasion and urged him to talk about it. Finally Kepler an- 
swered him: 

" 1 have little to say. ... I am still undecided. I can't come to a 
decision. Besides, I don't think that our technical resources and ex- 


Einstein at Prague 

pcrience are yet sufficiently advanced to enable us to give a definite 
answer to this question/ " 

There was a pause, during which Kepler sat completely self- 
absorbed, with a blissful smile on his countenance. But Tycho 
was already somewhat irritated and interrupted him: 

"'And does this satisfy you, Kepler, this state of affairs? I mean 
this uncertainty regarding the most essential points of our art. Doesn't 
the lack of decision sometimes take your breath away? Doesn't im- 
patience deprive you of all your happiness? 5 

" 'I am not happy/ Kepler answered simply. 1 have never been 

" 'You not happy?' Tycho stared at him with wide-open eyes. c You 
not what do you lack, then? What more do you want? What 
would you have in addition to that already bestowed on you? Oh, 
fie, how immodest you must be if you don't reckon yourself happy, 
you who are the happiest of all men! Yes, must I, then, tell it to you 
for the first time? Don't you feel that you now I will put it in one 
word, that you are on the right way, on the only right way ? . . . No, 
now I don't mean the outward success, the applause surrounding you, 
which has been accorded you. But inwardly, inwardly, my Kepler 
must I really say it to you? inwardly, in the heart of our science, 
you are on the right path, the path blessed by God; and that is the 
noblest, happiest fate that a mortal can encounter/ 

" 'No, I am not happy, and I have never been happy/ Kepler re- 
peated, with a dull obstinacy. Then he added quite gently: "And I 
don't wish to be happy/ 

"Tycho was at his wits' end. . . . But even while he labored to 
represent Kepler to himself as a cunning, calculating man, an in- 
triguer, it was fully clear to him that this in no way tallied with the 
facts, that Kepler was the very opposite of an intriguer; he never 
pursued a definite aim and in fact transacted all affairs lying outside 
the bounds of his science in a sort of dream. Why, he did not even 
realize that he was happy. So far did his mental confusion go that 
he did not even observe that. . . . He was not responsible for any- 
thing that he did. . . . With all his happiness, which another man 
would have had to purchase at the expense of unending suffering on 
the part of his conscience, Kepler was pure and without guilt; and 
this absence of guilt was the crown of his happiness; and this hap- 
piness thus the circle closed did not for a moment weigh upon 
him, for he was not even conscious of it. . . . He really had no inkling 
of his good fortune. There he sat at the table opposite Tycho, and 
while Tycho was tossed hither and thither by his thoughts, he sat 
with upright, with somewhat rigid torso, in the attitude of one whose 
gaze is fixed upon the distance, sat in complete calm and composure, 
observing nothing of Tycto's disquiet and as usual continued 


Einstein: Ute Life and Times 

On another occasion Kepler and Tycho again discussed the 
arguments favoring or opposing either the Copernican or the 
Tychonian system, and this time they paid more attention than 
before to the observable facts and the logical conclusions that 
could be drawn upon for such proof. Brod describes the atti- 
tudes of the two men as follows: 

Tycho "began to despair, finding no sign of decision on either side. 
Kepler, on the other hand, seemed to drink in a copious draught of 
pleasure and strength from this very uncertainty. The more obscure 
-ind the more difficult the decision, the more did he find himself in 
the humor for jesting, this man who was ordinarily so dry. When 
confronted by 'Nature,' this riddle of the Sphinx, his whole being 
expanded, he seized without difficulty upon the object, jovially assail- 
ing it upon every side, as it were, and firmly rooted himself in it. 
His voice even took on an unfamiliar, joyously consequential bass- 
note when he cried in reply to a caustic remark of Tycho's: 'Well, 
perhaps the laws of nature agree only fortuitously.' " 

Another discussion develops between Tycho and Kepler over 
the question whether scientists in espousing a hypothesis must 
consider the beliefs and opinions of rulers and rich men. 

"Tycho raised himself, breathing heavily. 'Now at least the system 
of Copernicus remains unproved, and as it runs counter to the Bible 
and as I may not -needlessly affront the Catholic Majesty of my 
Emperor, I have no reason for espousing it. 5 

" That is going too far, 5 observed Kepler, still smiling. "Catholic 
or not, the hypothesis alone is being considered here, not the Em- 
peror^ favor. 5 . . . 

"Tycho answered hotly, feeling that a fundamental principle of his 
life was being assailed : 'But without the favor of princes and of the 
rich we could construct no expensive apparatus, and truth would 
remain uninvestigated. . . Thus the princes help us and the truth; 
so it is for us in our turn to respect them and to defer to their pleasure. 5 

" It is just this that I contest/ cried Kepler excitedly; c we must defer 
to truth alone and to no one else. . . .' 

"'Why to no one else? . . . When I have already put it before 
you that one can serve the truth only if one serves princes. It is quite 
true that it is more comfortable and simpler to follow your practice, 
my dear Kepler. You pay regard to nothing in going your own holy 
way, turning neither to right nor to left. But does it seem less holy 
to you to belie oneself for truth's sake? "Be cunning as serpents and 
harmless as doves 5 '; so did our Lord Jesus Himself speak to His 
disciples. You are no serpent, you never belie or constrain yourself. 
Thus you really serve, not truth, but only yourself; that is to say, your 
own purity and inviolateness. But I see not only myself, I see also my 


Einstein at Prague 

relations with those among whom I must live in the determination 
to serve truth with the aid of adroitness and every shrewd device. . . . 
And I think it is a better imitation of Christ to work among men, 
even though subject to the protection of princely favor, than merely 
to dream away one's life in ecstasy and thus to forget all labor and 
vexations.' " 

6. Einstein as a Professor 

Has Einstein always been a good teacher ? Did he like 
the profession? Very different opinions on these points can be 
obtained by asking people who have been his students or col- 

He had two chief characteristics that made him a good teacher. 
The first was his desire to be useful and friendly to as many as 
possible of his fellow beings, especially those in his environment. 
The second was his artistic sense, which impelled him not only 
to think out a scientific train of thought clearly and logically, 
but also to formulate it in a way that gave him, and everyone 
who listened to him, an aesthetic pleasure. This meant that he 
liked to communicate his ideas to others. 

On the other hand, tending to inhibit these qualities, was the 
trait that has always been so characteristic of Einstein. I have 
already mentioned his aversion to entering into very intimate 
personal relations with other people, a trait that has always left 
Einstein a lonely person among his students, his colleagues, his 
friends, and his family. To this was added an absence of ordinary 
academic vanity. For many professors the reflection of their own 
personality in so many young people, all of whom repeat what 
the teacher says, offers a kind of multiplication of their per- 
sonality. This human characteristic, which may appear as a 
weakness to some people, is also an asset in the teaching pro- 
fession. It often leads to a devotion on the part of the pedagogue 
to his job of teaching that appears selfless and even self-sacri- 
ficing. Even though in the last analysis it is a desire for self- 
expression, the teacher must surrender much of his personality. 
He must spend a good deal of his own life in serving his stu- 
dents. Einstein did not have this vanity, nor did his personality 
require multiplication, and consequently he was not ready to 
sacrifice so much for it. For this reason, too, his relation to his 
students was likewise ambivalent, but in a very peculiar way. 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

This way is very obvious from his manner of lecturing. When 
Einstein had thought through a problem, he always found it 
necessary to formulate this subject in as many different ways as 
possible and to present it so that it would be comprehensible to 
people accustomed to different modes of thought and with dif- 
ferent educational preparations. He liked to formulate his ideas 
for mathematicians, for experimental physicists, for philoso- 
phers, and even for people without much scientific training if 
they were at all inclined to think independently. He even liked 
to speak about subjects in physics that did not directly concern 
his discoveries, if he had thought up a method of making these 
topics comprehensible. 

In view of this trait, one might think that Einstein was bound 
to be a very good lecturer and teacher. Indeed, he frequently 
was. When he was interested in a subject for scientific, historical, 
or methodological reasons, he could lecture so that his listeners 
were enthralled. The charm of his lectures was due to his un- 
usual naturalness, the avoidance of every rhetorical effect and 
of all exaggeration, formality, and affectation. He tried to reduce 
every subject to its simplest logical form and then to present this 
simplest form artistically and psychologically so that it would 
lose every semblance of pedantry, and to render it plastic by 
means of appropriate, striking pictures. To these qualities were 
added a certain sense of humor, a few good-natured jokes that 
hurt no one, and a certain happy mood mixed with astonish- 
ment such as a child feels over its newly received Christmas gifts. 

Nevertheless, it was rather irksome for him to give regular 
lectures. To do so requires that the material for an entire course 
shall be so well organized and arranged that it can be presented 
interestingly throughout the year. It means that the lecturer 
has to interest himself as much in each individual problem as 
Einstein did in the problems on which all his energy was con- 
centrated. The lecturer must devote himself completely to the 
material that he is to discuss, and consequently it is very difficult 
to find time to devote to one's own research. All creative activity 
requires a great deal of reflection and contemplation, which a 
superficial observer would regard as a useless waste of time. 

There are teachers, especially in German universities, who 
have arranged their time so precisely that they are able to work 
out their lectures to the most minute detail and still find time 
for their own research. But as a result their time is so occupied 
that they have no place for the unforeseen, for an idea not directly 
connected with science or the teaching profession, for reflection, 


Einstein at Prague 

or for a conversation with an unexpected visitor. They become 
dry; any creative and imaginative qualities that they may have 
are utilized in their scientific research or in teaching students. In 
daily intercourse they often remind one of squeezed-out lemons 
and are unable to say anything interesting in company. Such 
scientists are not infrequent and are found even among the out- 
standing ones, although they are rare among the truly crea- 
tive men. 

Einstein was always the very opposite of this type. He did not 
like to grind out information for the students, but preferred to 
give abundantly of what interested and concerned him. For this 
reason he put the emphasis on his present field of interest. Also 
he had too much of an artistic temperament to solve the difficulty 
of giving a course of lectures in a wide field by the simple method 
of basing them on a single good book. It was also impossible 
for him to accumulate enough intellectual energy for his lec- 
tures to imbue them all with his spirit. As a result his lectures 
have been somehow uneven. He has not been a brilliant lecture- 
room professor, capable of maintaining the same level of interest 
and excellence in his lectures for an entire year. His single lec- 
tures before scientific societies, congresses, and wider audiences, 
however, were always imbued with a high degree of vitality and 
left a permanent impression on each listener. 

7. Generalization of the Special Theory of Relativity 

In Zurich and Prague Einstein worked on the solution 
of questions which were raised by his theory of relativity (Bern 
1905). According to the Newtonian principle or relativity, the 
velocity of a laboratory cannot be determined from observations 
on the motion of objects within it. Einstein had in 1905 general- 
ized this principle to include optical phenomena, so that obser- 
vations of neither material bodies nor light rays enable one to de- 
termine the velocity of one's laboratory. All this is true, however, 
only if the motion occurs along a straight line with constant 
speed. But it is quite consistent with Einstein's theory as de- 
veloped so far to say that one can determine from experiments 
in a laboratory L whether it moves with varying velocity relative 
to an inertial system F. It would thus be possible to learn some- 
thing about the motion of the laboratory as a whole from the 
experiment carried out in L. While the velocity itself could not 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

be determined, the changes in speed and direction (acceleration) 
could be found. Einstein regarded this situation as very unsatis- 
factory. Ernst Mach had made a suggestion for the correction of 
this situation by assuming that from the observation in L one 
does not determine the acceleration relative to an imaginary in- 
ertial system, but relative to the fixed stars. Then the events 
in L would be influenced by actual physical bodies, the fixed 
stars. Mach's suggestion, however, remained only a program. 
It was never developed into a physical theory that would enable 
one to calculate in detail what observable consequences result 
from the influence of the fixed stars on the observable events 
in L. It was Einstein's aim to close this gap. 

He took as his point of departure the following question: 
What does Newtonian physics assert about the possibility of 
learning from experiments carried out in a moving laboratory 
L whether this room as a whole experiences a change in 
velocity relative to an inertial system? We have already seen 
that when the system L is an inertial system, the two New- 
tonian laws of motion, the law of inertia and the law of force, 
are valid relative to it. On the basis of daily experience we can 
likewise see quite easily that these laws no longer hold true for 
L if it is accelerated relative to an inertial system. 

For instance, let L be a moving railroad car. If the law of 
inertia is valid for L, it means that when I am standing in the 
car, I can remain standing for any length of time at the same 
spot relative to the car without exerting any force. Experience 
teaches us, however, that this is only true as long as the car moves 
along a straight line at a constant velocity. When the car stops 
suddenly, I shall fall down unless I make a special effort to 
remain erect. The same thing happens when the car increases 
its velocity suddenly or rounds a curve. As long as the change 
in velocity persists, I must make an effort to remain upright. 
When the velocity becomes constant again, I am able to stand 
without any effort. This shows that the force that I must exert 
to remain standing permits me to recognize whether my car L 
is or is not an inertial system. Moreover, even this crudest kind 
of experience shows me that the more sudden the stoppage of 
the car, the greater the required force. More generally speaking, 
the greater the acceleration, the greater the required force. 

From these crude reflections, we can easily develop a method 
of determining the acceleration (a) of a laboratory L by ob- 
serving the motion of objects relative to the walls of L. Let us 
consider, for instance, a little cart lying on the floor of L and 


Einstein at Prague 

free to move in any direction. As long as tlie laboratory moves 
in a straight line with uniform velocity, the cart will remain 
at rest in L, but if the laboratory suddenly changes its velocity, 
the cart will move with respect to the walls of L as if it had re- 
ceived a jolt. The acceleration (oo) of the cart due to this recoil 
as seen in L will be such that its magnitude equals that of a but 
will be in the opposite direction. For the cart, as described with 
respect to the inertial system F (in which L has the acceleration 
a) , is a free body not acted on by any force; and hence by the law 
of inertia its motion is in a straight line with constant velocity. 
On the other hand, the acceleration of the cart as described rela- 
tive to F is also equal to the sum of the acceleration (<&>) of the 
cart with respect to L, and a of the laboratory L itself with 
respect to F. Since the resulting acceleration must be zero, we 
have Oo + a 0. And from this follows ao = a, as stated 
above. Thus the observation of the acceleration (#<?) of the cart 
in L produced by the motion of L enables us to calculate the 
acceleration (a) of the laboratory L with respect to the inertial 
system F. 

In the above consideration the cart was initially at rest in the 
laboratory, but this is not necessary, and in fact it would be even 
simpler to have it move initially in a straight line with constant 
velocity in L. Then when the recoil occurs, the cart will in gen- 
eral be deflected from its straight path and move in a curve. 
From the observation on the shape of this curve we can deter- 
mine the acceleration of the laboratory. 

Furthermore, the acceleration of the laboratory need not be 
restricted to increase or decrease in its speed. The laboratory may 
rotate about a certain axis. Such a case is familiar to everyone 
in the form of a merry-go-round or a railroad car rounding a 
curve. Just as a recoil in the opposite direction to the accelera- 
tion of L occurs in the former case, so in the latter case an impulse 
directed away from the axis of rotation appears in L. This ac- 
celeration is known to physicists as "centrifugal acceleration," 
and it is entirely analogous to the recoil that occurs when a vehi- 
cle begins to move or stop. 

In elementary mechanics this situation should be stated as 
follows: The motion of a body relative to an accelerated or a 
rotated laboratory cannot be calculated merely from the effect 
of the gravitation or electric forces acting on it. Accelerations due 
to recoil and centrifugal forces also occur and must be taken into 
account. It is often said that these accelerations are due to the 
appearance of "inertial forces" under such circumstances. They 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

are so called because they arise from the inertia of masses rela- 
tive to an inertial system. 

With Einstein's generalization of the Newtonian principle of 
relativity to include optical phenomena, it should be possible to 
use light rays instead of a material object (such as a cart) to find 
out the acceleration of a laboratory. If a beam of light is arranged 
so that the rays are parallel to the floor of the laboratory while 
it is not accelerated, then when it is accelerated the rays will no 
longer be in a straight line parallel to the floor, but will be de- 
flected. Observations on the magnitude of this deflection will 
enable us to calculate the acceleration of the laboratory. 

Thus we see that according to nineteenth-century mechanics 
and Einstein's theory of light and motion, advanced in 1905, the 
acceleration of a laboratory L with respect to an inertial sys- 
tem F has measurable influence on physical occurrences in 
L, even though it is not possible to state under what observable 
conditions a system F is an inertial system. But then the part 
played by the inertial system is none other than that of Newton's 
"absolute space." 

8. Influence of Gravity on the Propagation of Light 

It was Einstein's aim to eliminate this "absolute space" 
from physics. This did not seem to be an easy task, in view of the 
fact that such clearly perceptible phenomena as recoil and cen- 
trifugal force in railroad cars could not be explained except by 
the effect of absolute space. Einstein's theory of relativity of 1905 
was restricted to motions in a straight line with constant speed 
and had done nothing in this direction. A new idea leading to 
even more profound changes had to be introduced into physics. 
As so often happens, the difficulty was solved by recognizing 
that it is related to another previously unsolved problem. When 
one observes the motion of a cart or the deflection of a light ray 
in a laboratory, the accelerations actually seen may be due to an- 
other cause than to the acceleration of the laboratory itself. They 
may be due to real forces that act on the cart or light ray and, 
in accordance with Newton's law of force, impart acceleration. 
How are we to distinguish the effects that arise from this en- 
tirely different cause ? For forces delivered directly by human 
beings or some mechanical device, the distinction can be made 
in this way: Consider two carts of unequal masses instead of one, 


Einstein at Prague 

If the same force acts on the two, since Newton's law of force 
states that the change in momentum that is, the change in the 
product of the mass and the velocity is equal to the applied 
force; the lighter cart will experience a bigger acceleration than 
the heavier one. On the other hand, if the accelerations are due 
to inertial forces, they will both be the same. Thus there is this 
difference: Accelerations due to actual forces (like push or pull) 
depend on the mass of the object moved; while accelerations due 
to recoil and centrifugal forces are independent of the mass. 

Einstein noticed, however, that there is one type of "real" 
force that imparts the same acceleration to all bodies. This is the 
force of gravity. Since the time of Galileo we have known that, 
apart from the effects of air friction, all bodies fall at the same 
rate no matter what their masses are. Newton did not regard 
this as in any way inconsistent with his own law of motion. He 
simply assumed in his law of universal gravitation that the force 
of gravity acting on a body is proportional to its mass. The force 
of gravity acting on any body on the surface of the earth is its 
weight in the usual terminology. If we denote this by the sym- 
bol W , then Newton's assumption can be expressed mathemati- 
cally as W = Mg, where M is the mass of the object and g is a 
constant at a certain point on the earth. Now, Newton's law of 
force states that this force Mg is equal to the rate of change of the 
momentum, which is simply the mass times the acceleration Ma. 
Thus Mg = Ma, and consequently the mass cancels out and we 
have simply a = g. The acceleration due to gravity is independ- 
ent of the mass and has the same value (g) for all bodies which 
is, again, Galileo's result. 

Einstein realized that this special character of the force of 
gravity made it impossible to determine the acceleration with 
which a laboratory moves relative to an inertial system. When 
we observe in a laboratory a cart executing an accelerated mo- 
tion, we have no way of deciding whether this is due to the 
acceleration of the laboratory system as a whole or to a gravita- 
tional attraction caused by bodies whose presence may be un- 
known to us. Into this gap Einstein penetrated with his keen 
logical analysis, and laid the foundations for a reconstruction 
of mechanics. As in his earlier paper of 1905, he again related 
the motion of bodies to the propagation of light, and in 1911 
he published a paper entitled "Ubcr den Einfluss der Schwer- 
Jyraft auf die Ausbreitung des Lichtes" ("The Influence of 
Gravity on the Propagation of Light"). 

Einstein started out from the following consideration: In a 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

laboratory L that, like an elevator, can move vertically up 
or down, experiments are performed to observe the motion of 
objects relative to it. If the laboratory is held by some means such 
as a cable so that it is at rest with respect to the earth, any object 
B falls downward with the acceleration of gravity, no matter 
what its mass is or what it is made of. If, however, the laboratory 
itself is allowed to fall freely owing to the action of gravity, then 
no object B will have any acceleration relative to the labora- 
tory. Everything would occur as if there were no force of gravity. 
By observing motions with respect to L one is not able to decide 
whether L is an inertial system with a field of gravity or whether 
there is no force of gravity but the laboratory is falling freely. 
To express the result more generally: it is not possible to distin- 
guish by means of mechanical experiments carried out in a 
laboratory the accelerations that arise from inertial forces and 
those that arise from gravitational forces. 

To Einstein this conclusion was analogous to Newton's state- 
ment that in no case can the speed of rectilinear uniform motion 
of a laboratory with respect to an inertial system be determined 
from mechanical experiments within the laboratory. In 1905 
Einstein had extended this principle to include optical experi- 
ments. In a similar manner he now extended the properties of 
accelerated motions of objects to include optical phenomena. 
Thus Einstein advanced the hypothesis that it is impossible, even 
by means of observations on the rays of light, to determine 
whether a laboratory is an accelerated system or whether it is 
at rest or in uniform motion and subjected to a gravitational 
field, Einstein called this "the principle of equivalence of gravi- 
tational forces and inertial forces," or, in short, the equivalence 

With this principle Einstein was able to predict new optical 
phenomena that could be observed and hence give an experi- 
mental check on the validity of this theory. According to ordi- 
nary Newtonian physics, gravity has no effect on the path of a 
light ray, but according to the equivalence principle, gravita- 
tional forces can be replaced by an accelerated motion. The lat- 
ter, however, as mentioned in the previous section, certainly has 
an effect on a beam of light. A ray parallel to the floor of a non- 
accelerated laboratory is no longer parallel when the system is 
accelerated. Hence Einstein concluded that the path of a light 
ray is deflected in a gravitational field. The amount of deflection 
turned out to be very minute because of the enormous ve- 
locity of light and no terrestrial experiment is feasible, but Ein- 

Einstein at Prague 

stein suggested that the effect might be observable for the light 
that comes to us from the fixed stars and passes near the surface 
of the sun. In this case the force of gravity is not uniform with 
the same strength and direction everywhere, but emanates from 
the center of the sun with a force that decreases in strength 
as the distance from the surface increases. But Einstein con- 
cluded that there would be a deflection in a direction that bends 
the light ray toward the sun. Since no stars are visible near the 
sun under ordinary conditions, however, owing to the blinding 
sunlight, Einstein pointed out in his paper that: 

"Since the fixed stars in the parts of the sky near the sun be- 
come visible during a total eclipse, it is possible to check this 
theoretical conclusion by experiment." 

By assuming that the force of gravity has the value accepted 
by Newton, Einstein showed by a very simple calculation based 
on his equivalence principle that a ray of light coming from a 
fixed star and just grazing the border of the sun will be deflected 
from its straight path by 0.83 seconds of an arc. Consequently, 
if one photographs the fixed stars near the sun during a total 
solar eclipse and compares their positions with those where the 
sun is not near them, differences between their positions are to 
be expected. Since the light rays are bent toward the sun, the 
stars must appear shifted away from it, the magnitude depend- 
ing on the proximity of the rays to the sun as they pass by it 
Einstein concluded his paper with these words: 

"It would be extremely desirable if astronomers would look 
into the problem presented here, even though the consideration 
developed above may appear insufficiently founded or even 

No matter what one may think of Einstein's hypothesis, he 
had brought forward a definite observational check on his 
theory. Since total solar eclipses are not very frequent and are 
observable only from a very limited part of the earth, astrono- 
mers were stimulated to undertake interesting and adventurous 
journeys. It took three years, however, until 1914, to find enough 
support and money to dispatch an expedition equipped to per- 
form this observation. But just as this first expedition left Ger- 
many for Russia, World War I broke out, and the members of 
the expedition became Russian prisoners and were prevented 
from making the observation. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

9. Departure from Prague 

While he was a professor at Prague, Einstein not only 
founded his new theory of gravitation but also developed fur- 
ther the quantum theory of light that he had begun while in 
Bern. His hypothesis that a quantum of violet light possesses 
much more energy than that of red light seemed to be in agree- 
ment with experimental results on the chemical action of light. 
Every photographer is familiar with the fact that the action of 
violet light is much stronger than that of red light on a photo- 
graphic plate. Einstein started with the simple assumption, very 
closely related to his photon theory of light, that the chemical 
decomposition of a molecule always takes place with the absorp- 
tion of only a single light quantum. In his paper published in 
1912 under the title "fiber die thermodynamischc Ecgrundung 
des photochemischen Aquivalenzgesetzes" ("On the Thermo- 
dynamic Foundations of the Photochemical Equivalence Law), 
he showed that the assumption is also in accord with the gen- 
eral principles of thermodynamics. 

About this time, however, Einstein began to be much trou- 
bled over the paradoxes arising from the dual nature of light: 
the wave character exemplified by the phenomena of interfer- 
ence and diffraction and the particle aspect shown by the photo- 
electric and chemical actions. His state of mind over this prob- 
lem can be described by this incident: 

Einstein's office at the university overlooked a park with 
beautiful gardens and shady trees. He noticed that there were 
only women walking about in the morning and men in the 
afternoon, and that some walked alone sunk in deep medita- 
tion and others gathered in groups and engaged in vehement 
discussions. On inquiring what this strange garden was, he 
learned that it was a park belonging to the insane asylum of 
the province of Bohemia. The people walking in the garden 
were inmates of this institution, harmless patients who did not 
have to be confined. When I first went to Prague, Einstein 
showed me this view, explained it to me, and said playfully: 
"Those are the madmen who do not occupy themselves with the 
quantum theory." 

Soon after Einstein's arrival in Prague, he had received an 
offer of a professorship of theoretical physics at the Polytechnic 
School in Zurich, the institution from which he had graduated. 

Einstein at Prague 

The Polytechnic belongs to the Swiss Confederation and is a 
larger and more important institution than the University of 
Zurich, where Einstein had first taught and which is maintained 
by the canton of Zurich. Einstein was in doubt whether or not to 
return to Zurich, but his wife decided the matter. She had never 
felt at ease in Prague and was attached to Zurich, which had be- 
come her ideal home while she was a student there. 

Einstein informed the university at Prague that he would 
leave it at the end of the summer semester of 1912. But with 
his usual indifference to all official formalities, he did not send 
to the administrative authorities the documents that had to be 
filled out when one resigned from the service of the Austrian 
state. The Ministry of Education in Vienna did not receive the 
application that had to be forwarded in such cases. One can 
well imagine that the official in charge was unhappy at being 
unable to close Einstein's record according to regulations. For 
many years the dossier for the "Einstein case" remained in- 
complete in a pigeonhole. Some years later, when Einstein went 
to Vienna for a lecture, a friend told him that the official in 
the ministry was still unhappy over the gap in the records. 
Einstein with his good nature did not want to make anybody 
unhappy. He visited the ministry, made his excuses to the 
official, and filled out the appropriate form. The pigeonhole lost 
its blemish. 

Einstein's sudden departure from Prague gave rise to many 
rumors. An editorial in the largest German newspaper of Prague 
asserted that because of his fame and genius Einstein was per- 
secuted by his colleagues and compelled to leave the city. Others 
maintained that because of his Jewish origin he had been badly 
treated by the administrative authorities in Vienna and there- 
fore did not want to remain in Prague any longer. Einstein was 
much astonished by all this talk, as his stay in Prague had been 
a very pleasant one, and he had been favorably impressed by the 
Austrian character. Since he did not like to create any unpleas- 
antness for anyone, he wrote a letter to the head of the Austrian 
university administration in Vienna. Before taking over my 
position in Prague, I paid a visit to this man. He was a Pole 
and embraced me according to the Polish custom as if I were 
a close friend. In the course of the call he told me about Ein- 
stein's letter and said with great enthusiasm: "I received a splen- 
did letter from Mr. Einstein, such as one is not accustomed to 
receive from a professor of our universities. I recall this letter 
very often. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction, particularly 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

since so many attacks were directed against our government on 
account of Einstein." 

For me Einstein's departure from Prague is bound up with 
a rather humorous story, which I wish to relate because it is 
linked with the checkered history of our time. Like every Aus- 
trian prof essor, Einstein had had to get a uniform. It resembled 
the uniform of a naval officer and consisted of a three-cornered 
hat trimmed with feathers, a coat and trousers ornamented 
with broad gold bands, a very warm overcoat of thick black 
cloth, and a sword. An Austrian professor was required to put 
on this uniform only when taking the oath of allegiance before 
assuming his duties or when he had an audience with the 
Emperor of Austria. Einstein had worn it only once, on the 
former occasion. Since the uniform was rather expensive and he 
had no use for it after his departure, I bought it for half the 
original price. But before Einstein gave me the uniform, his 
son, who was then perhaps eight years old, said to him: "Papa, 
before you give the uniform away, you must put it on and take 
me for a walk through the streets of Zurich." Einstein promised 
to do so, saying: "I don't mind; at most, people will think I am 
a Brazilian admiral." 

I too wore it only once, when taking the oath of allegiance, and 
I had it in my trunk for a long time. After six years the Austrian 
monarchy disappeared and the Czechoslovakian Republic was 
established at Prague. The oath of allegiance to the Emperor 
was replaced by that of allegiance to the Republic, and the pro- 
fessors had no uniform any more. The uniform remained only 
as a memory of Franz Joseph and Einstein. Soon after the Rus- 
sian Revolution, when a large number of refugees, many of 
whom were officers, came to Prague, my wife said to me: "Why 
should such a good coat lie unused when so many are freezing? 
I know a former commander in chief of the Cossack army who 
cannot buy a warm winter coat. Einstein's coat looks almost like 
the coat of a high-ranking cavalry officer. It will please the gen- 
eral and keep him warm." We gave him the coat, but he was not 
interested in its distinguished past. The rest of the uniform, in- 
cluding the sword, remained in the German University. When 
the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, the university became 
a bulwark of Nazism in the east and Einstein's sword probably 
became booty of a Nazi soldier, a symbol of the final defeat of 
"international Jewish science" until 1945, when the Red Army 
entered Prague. 




I. The Solvay Congress 

In the fall of 1912 Einstein entered upon his duties as 
professor at the Polytechnic in Zurich. He was now the pride 
of the institution where he had once failed to pass the entrance 
examination, where he had studied and met his wife, and where 
on graduation he had been unable to obtain even a minor po- 

As early as 1910, when Lampa was considering Einstein's 
appointment to Prague and seeking an opinion of his qualifica- 
tions from a scientist who was generally recognized as an au- 
thority, Max Planck, the leading theoretical physicist, had writ- 
ten to the faculty committee at Prague: "If Einstein's theory 
should prove to be correct, as I expect it will, he will be consid- 
ered the Copernicus of the twentieth century." Einstein was 
already beginning to be surrounded by an aura of legend. His 
achievements were characterized as a turning-point in physics 
comparable to the revolution initiated by Copernicus. 

In 1911, when a conference of a small number of world- 
famous physicists was to be convened in Brussels to discuss the 
crisis in modern physics, there was no question that an invita- 
tion would be extended to Einstein. The selection of the con- 
ferees was suggested by Walter Nernst, a leading investigator 
in the fields of physics and chemistry, and among others there 
were Sir Ernest Rutherford of England, Henri Poincare and 
Paul Langevin of France, Max Planck and Walter Nernst of 
Germany, H. A. Lorentz of Holland, and Madame Curie of 
Poland, who was working in Paris. Einstein represented Aus- 
tria, together with Franz Hasenohrl, the Viennese, whose name 
after his tragic death was to be linked in a peculiar manner 
with the fight against Einstein. This conference was Einstein's 
first opportunity to meet these scientists whose ideas shaped the 
physical research of this period. 

The costs of the conference, including the traveling expenses 
to Brussels and the living expenses there and in addition a re- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

muneration of a thousand francs to each conferee, was de- 
frayed by a rich Belgian named E. Solvay. This man had been 
successful in the chemical industry, but his hobby was a physical 
theory of the outmoded mechanistic type. Although it led 
to many complications and not to the discovery of new laws, 
he was greatly interested in attracting the attention of physicists 
to his theory and in learning their opinions about it. The clever 
chemist Walter Nernst, who was in social contact with him, 
thought that this rich man's hobby might be utilized for the 
benefit of science while at the same time fulfilling Solvay's de- 
sire. He proposed that he call a conference of leading physicists 
to discuss the present difficulties in their science, to whom he 
could present his ideas on this occasion. The conference became 
known as the Solvay Congress. In the opening address Solvay 
presented a summary of his ideas, and the conferees then dis- 
cussed the new developments in physics. Finally in the conclud- 
ing address Solvay thanked the speakers for their interesting 
discussions, emphasizing how much pleasure he had derived 
from them. Nevertheless, all this had not shaken his faith in 
his own theory. All the speakers had avoided entering upon any 
criticism of his theory, to prevent any conscientious scruples 
arising between their feelings of gratitude and courtesy toward 
their host and their scientific convictions. Solvay was imbued 
with such sincere interest in the advancement of science that he 
subsequently convened similar conferences quite often, and at 
these meetings Einstein always played a leading role. A man 
like Nernst who has the interests of science at heart and is prac- 
tical can utilize such opportunities for the benefit of progress 
in scientific research. 

The world marveled at the great number of new and aston- 
ishing ideas and at the thoroughness with which ithese concepts 
were developed, presented, and arranged in a larger chain of 
ideas that Einstein had already produced in 1912 after less than 
ten years as a physicist. But Einstein himself thought only of 
the defects and the gaps in his creations. His new theory of 
gravitation, which he had made public in 1911 at Prague, dealt 
only with one very special case of the effects of gravity. Only 
the case where the force of gravity has the same direction and 
intensity throughout the entire space under consideration was 
completely clear, and the theory as developed so far was unable 
to furnish a complete solution to cases where the force of grav- 
ity had different directions at different points in space. 

Up to this time Einstein had solved his problems with the 


Einstein at Berlin 

simplest mathematical aids and had looked upon every exag- 
geration in the use of "higher mathematics" with the suspicion 
that it was not due to any desire for clarity, but rather to dumb- 
found the reader. Now a new trend appeared in his work. It 
has been mentioned that while in Prague Einstein had already 
felt that the development of a still more general theory required 
more complicated mathematical methods than those he had at 
his command. He had discussed this matter with his colleague 
Pick, who had called his attention to the new mathematical 
theories of the Italians Ricci and Levi-Civita. In Zurich Einstein 
found ^among his colleagues his old friend Marcel Grossmann, 
and with him he now studied these new mathematical methods. 
In collaboration with him Einstein succeeded in preparing a 
preliminary sketch of a general theory of gravitation in which 
every case of the action of the force of gravity was contained. 
This work, published in 1913, still contained many defects,, how- 
ever, and they were not removed until the complete theory was 
finally published during the World War. We shall discuss it in 
detail later. 

2. Trip to Vienna 

In the fall of 1913, at the Congress of German Sci- 
entists and Physicians in Vienna,, Einstein was invited to pre- 
sent a summary of his new ideas on the theory of gravitation. 
Even then he was regarded as an unusual phenomenon among 
the physicists, and it was rumored that he had "thought up" a 
general theory of relativity which was "even more incompre- 
hensible" than his special theory of 1905 and even further re- 
moved from the physics of the laboratory. In consequence a 
large audience crowded the room where he was to speak, Ein- 
stein, however, took the most obvious and easily understood 
ideas as his points of departure and tried step by step to awaken 
in his listeners a feeling that radical changes were necessary if 
only one tried to see clearly the defects and gaps in the previous 

His explanation was approximately as follows: At first, in- 
vestigations of the nature of electricity were concerned only 
with electrical charges. The forces involved in the mutual at- 
traction and repulsion of these charges were known, and it was 
also known that, like the Newtonian gravitational forces, they 


Einstein: His Life and 'times 

decreased with the square of the distance between the charges. 
Later, electric currents were discovered, and it was found that 
they could be generated by moving magnets, as well as by mov- 
ing electric charges. This led to the industrial application of 
electricity. Finally, electromagnetic waves were discovered and 
utilized in wireless telegraphy and radio. No one had imagined 
that all this would develop from the simple attraction of electri- 
cal charges. In the theory of gravitation we are still in this first 
period where we are acquainted only with the law of attraction 
between material bodies. We must create a theory of gravitation 
that will be as far removed from the simple Newtonian theory 
of attractions as the theory of radio waves is from the views of 
Benjamin Franklin. 

In his lecture Einstein also mentioned that previous to his 
work a young Viennese physicist had already developed some 
of the mathematical ideas that he had used in his theory. He 
asked whether this man was in the audience, as he did not 
know him personally. And in fact a young man rose and Ein- 
stein asked him to remain standing so that the entire audience 
could see him. This man was Friedrich Kottler, later employed 
by the Eastman Kodak Company at Rochester, New York. 

Einstein took this opportunity of his stay in Vienna to be- 
come personally acquainted with the physicist and philosopher 
Ernst Mach, who had had such a profound influence on the 
development of Einstein's ideas. (Ch. II) At the University of 
Vienna Mach had lectured on the history and theory of the "in- 
ductive" sciences that is, sciences such as physics and chemis- 
try that advance from individual observations to general laws. 
For more than twelve years, however, Mach had suff ered from 
a severe paralysis and had retired from his position. He lived in 
his apartment in a suburb of Vienna, and occupied himself only 
with his studies and receiving occasional visitors. On entering 
his room one saw a man with a gray, unkempt beard and a 
partly good-natured, partly cunning expression on his face, who 
looked like a Slavic peasant and said: "Please speak loudly to 
me. In addition to my other unpleasant characteristics I am also 
almost stone-deaf." Mach was very much interested in meeting 
the originator of the new theory of relativity. 

Even though Einstein greatly admired Mach's ideas on the 
logical structure of physics, there were many things he could 
not accept. According to Einstein's judgment Mach did not give 
enough credit to the creative mind of the scientist who imagines 
general laws beyond a mere economic description of facts. 


Einstein at Berlin 

Mach's opinion, that the general laws of science are only a means 
by which individual facts can be remembered more easily, did 
not appear satisfactory to Einstein. To him the phrase "remem- 
bered more easily" could in this connection apparently mean 
only "remembered with less effort." Mach's economy seemed 
to be economy in a psychological sense. 

Hence, after conversing awhile with Mach, Einstein raised 
the following question: "Let us suppose that by assuming the 
existence of atoms in a gas we were able to predict an observable 
property of this gas that could not be predicted on the basis of 
a non-atomistic theory. Would you then accept such a hypothe- 
sis even if the calculations of its consequence required very com- 
plicated computations, comprehensible only with great diffi- 
culty ? I mean, of course, that from this hypothesis one could 
infer the interrelation of several observable properties that with- 
out it would remain unrelated. It is then 'economical' to as- 
sume the existence of atoms?" 

Mach answered: "If with the help of the atomic hypothesis 
one could actually establish a connection between several ob- 
servable properties which without it would remain isolated, then 
I should say that this hypothesis was an 'economical' one; be- 
cause with its aid relations between various observations could 
be derived from a single assumption. Nor should I have any 
objection even if the requisite computations were complicated 
and difficult." 

Einstein was exceedingly satisfied with this statement and re- 
plied: "By 'simple' and 'economical' you mean, then, not a 'psy- 
chological economy' but rather a logical economy.' The ob- 
servable properties should be derived from as few assumptions 
as possible, even though these assumptions appear 'arbitrary' 
and the computation of the results might be difficult" 

With economy interpreted in this logical sense, there was 
no longer any conflict between Mach's standpoint and Einstein's 
as to the criteria to be filled by a physical theory. Although 
Mach made the concession in conversation, yet Einstein saw 
in his writing only a demand for "psychological economy." 
Thus for the moment Einstein was satisfied, but he retained a 
certain aversion to the "Machist philosophy." 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

3. Invitation to Berlin 

Einstein's fame had grown so great by now that many 
centers of scientific research desired to secure him as an associate. 
For several years efforts had been exerted to develop Berlin not 
only as a center of political and economic power but also as a 
center of artistic and scientific activity. Emperor Wilhelm II, 
who liked to associate with Americans, had learned from them 
that in the United States there were, in addition to the universi- 
ties, institutions devoted solely to research, to which rich busi- 
ness men such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Guggenheim 
donated large sums of money. The Kaiser was aware that 
military and economic power required as a basis an organiza- 
tion of scientific research, and he wanted to use his influence 
to found similar research institutions in Germany. For his pur- 
pose this was particularly important in the fields of physics, 
chemistry, and their applications. 

To further these aims Wilhelm II founded the Kaiser Wil- 
helm Gesellschaft, within which rich industrialists, merchants, 
and bankers united to help build research institutes. The mem- 
bers received the pompous title of "senator" and the right to 
wear a handsome gown, and they were sometimes invited to 
breakfast with the Emperor an invitation that cost them each 
time a great deal of money. During the course of the conversa- 
tion at these breakfasts, the Emperor would mention that money 
was requested for a particularly important field of research. 

The erection of these institutes had the additional advantage 
that scientists whom the government did not want to appoint 
as professors in the universities, because of pedagogical, politi- 
cal, or other reasons, could still be employed in a way beneficial 
to the German Reich. Men of outstanding eminence were 
sought for these institutes, and the appointments could be made 
solely on the basis of scientific achievement. 

Owing to the fact that the Kaiser was interested not only 
in physics and chemistry but also in modern Biblical research, 
the first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft was the 
liberal Protestant theologian Adolf Harnack. He was persuaded 
by Max Planck and Walter Nernst to invite Albert Einstein, the 
rising star in physics, to Berlin. 

Planck and Nernst, the leaders in German physics at this 
time, were to play important roles in Einstein's life. They rep- 


Einstein at Berlin 

resented two very different types of German scientist. Max 
Planck was a member of a Prussian family of military officers 
and government officials. He was tall, slim, an enthusiastic 
mountain-climber, and a lover of classical music. Basically, he 
accepted the philosophy of his social class; he believed in the 
mission of the Kaiser to make the world happy with his con- 
ception of German culture, and in the right of his class to pro- 
vide the leaders for Germany and to exclude people of other 
origins from such functions. On the other hand, he was an 
ardent adherent of Kantian philosophy in the diluted form in 
which it had become the common religion of the German aca- 
demic and governmental circles. He believed with Kant in the 
duty of doing everything that is "qualified to become a general 
rule of human conduct." He also believed in the international 
mission of science and in non-German co-operation with Ger- 
mans in scientific research. But since his immediate emotional 
reaction was to respond in terms of the philosophy of the Prus- 
sian bureaucracy, an appeal to his reason was necessary to make 
him recognize the rights of aliens. As he was conscientious and 
an idealist, such an appeal was usually successful. 

On the other hand, Walter Nernst, although a great scientist 
and scholar, exhibited the mentality characteristic of a member 
of the merchant class. He had no national or class prejudice and 
was imbued with a type of liberalism that is often peculiar to 
business men. He was short, active, witty, and quick of appre- 
hension. He occasionally utilized his craftiness in professional 
life, and his students jokingly referred to him as the "Kommer* 
zienrat" a title conferred in Germany on successful business 
men. There was a story about him that he was the only physicist 
who had ever signed a contract with an industrial firm in which 
the advantage was not on the side of the firm. This contract 
concerned his invention of an electric light bulb, widely known 
for a time as the Nernst lamp. He earned a good deal of money 
from it, but the lamp soon fell into disuse. 

Planck and Nernst went to Zurich personally to influence 
Einstein in favor of their plan. This was the following: There 
was as yet no separate research institute for physics and no hope 
that any such institute could be built in the near future. Never- 
theless, Einstein was to become the director of the institute that 
was being planned, and in the meantime to assist in a consulta- 
tive capacity in the physical research being carried on in other 
institutes. In addition he was to become a member of the Royal 
Prussian Academy of Science. To be a member of this body was 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

considered a great honor; and many outstanding professors at 
the University of Berlin never succeeded in achieving it. Al- 
though membership in the Academy was only an honorary po- 
sition for most of the incumbents., a few were endowed by 
foundations which paid a sufficiently large salary. Such a posi- 
tion was offered to Einstein. Both in the Academy and in the 
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute his main occupation was to be the 
organization of research. He was to have the title of professor 
at the University of Berlin, but unencumbered by any obliga- 
tions or rights, except that of lecturing as much or as little as 
he desired. He was to have nothing to do with the administra- 
tion of the university or with examinations, or in the appoint- 
ment of new professors. 

There were great advantages offered by this invitation. Be- 
sides the academic honors that the Prussian Academy bestowed 
on him, it meant that he would receive a much larger salary 
than he did at Zurich. He would also be in a position to devote 
himself entirely to research and would have as much of an 
opportunity as he desired to come into contact with the many 
leading physicists, chemists, and mathematicians who were in 
Berlin. Despite his unusual talents he could still expect to be 
stimulated by new ideas, since it is always fruitful to receive the 
criticism of so many scientists capable of independent thinking, 
working in many different fields. In addition it meant that 
Einstein would not be obliged to give regular lectures, which 
he considered very burdensome. 

On the other hand, it was difficult for him to decide to return 
to the center of that Germany from which he had fled as a 
student. It seemed to him even a kind of betrayal of his con- 
victions to become a member of a group with which he did 
not harmonize in so many respects, simply because it was con- 
nected with a pleasant position for himself. It was for him a 
struggle between his personality as a scientific investigator who 
could benefit by moving to Berlin, and his feeling as a mem- 
ber of a certain social group. 

In addition there were also personal factors that entered into 
the decision. Einstein had an uncle in Berlin a fairly successful 
businessman, whose daughter, Elsa, was now a widow. Ein- 
stein remembered that his cousin Elsa as a young girl had 
often been in Munich and had impressed him as a friendly, 
happy person. The prospects of being able to enjoy the pleas- 
ant company of this cousin in Berlin enabled him to think of 


Einstein at Berlin 

the Prussian capital somewhat more favorably. And so Einstein 
finally decided to accept the offer, and at the end of 1913 he left 

4. Einstein's Position in the Academic Life of Berlin 

Soon after his arrival in Berlin Einstein separated from his 
wif e, Mileva, with whom in many respects he was no longer in 
accord, and he now led a bachelor life. When he became a mem- 
ber of the Academy he was just thirty-four years old. He was a 
young man among men who were in general much older, men 
with proud pasts and great authority, and many of them of great 
achievements also. The feeling of strangeness that he felt there 
from the beginning, however, arose only in a very small part 
from the difference in age. Most of these men were, so to speak, 
"veterans of university life." Everything that happened in these 
circles seemed to them extraordinarily important, and election to 
the Academy appeared to be the culmination of their aspira- 
tions. All this could not make any great impression on Einstein, 
who was already on his way to world fame before he was a 
great man in narrower academic circles. 

While Einstein was still in Zurich and a long time before the 
invitation from Berlin, someone happened to remark in his pres- 
ence: "It is really a pity that no one ever enters the Academy 
while still a young man, at a time when it would still make him 
happy." "If that is the case," Einstein rejoined, "I could be 
elected to the Academy immediately, since it would not make 
me happy even now." 

In an academy there is always much that is comical Einstein 
appreciated this as much as he had the comedy in the faculty 
meetings at the University of Prague. Moreover, the comical 
aspects of such bodies are hardly to be avoided. This is due to 
the circumstance that even the greatest scientists of the country 
must deal with questions that are often of but slight significance, 
but that must be discussed with the same thoroughness and 
earnestness as if they were scientific questions of prime impor- 
tance. For instance, whether a work to be published by the 
Academy is to be done in two or three volumes, whether A 
should receive one hundred marks for his work and B one hun- 
dred and twenty or vice versa, and many similar questions were 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

discussed with considerable acumen and temperament. Also, in 
accordance with an old tradition, the papers that were to be 
printed in the transactions of the Academy had to be presented, 
even if only in summary form when the Academy met. Since 
as a rule these papers dealt with very special subjects, they were 
completely incomprehensible and uninteresting to most of the 
members. One described a rare moss found in a certain part of 
Finland, another discussed the solution of a complicated math- 
ematical equation, and still another the deciphering of a Baby- 
lonian inscription that could be read only with difficulty. In 
order to be polite, one had to show a certain interest; actually 
the members often had to make an effort not to fall asleep dur- 
ing the sessions. This was all very natural, but the contrast be- 
tween earnestness and triviality could not but appear comical. 
Einstein was well able to appreciate this, and his sense of 
humor made it easier for him to endure much that was un- 

Professor Ladenburg, a German physicist who lived and 
worked for a long time with Einstein in Berlin and who is now 
at Princeton University, once said to me: "There were two kinds 
of physicists in Berlin: on the one hand was Einstein, and on 
the other all the rest." This is a very good characterization of 
Einstein's position. To all outward appearances he was a mem- 
ber of a professional group, but he never belonged to its rank 
and file. His aloofness was always noticeable, and his status may 
be described aptly by the slang expression: "He was in a class 
by himself." 

Einstein's contradictory attitude toward co-operation with 
others and his aloofness we have so often noted manifested 
itself also very definitely in his attitude to his occupation as 
professor. He frequently expressed the opinion that a scientist 
should earn his living from a "cobbler's job." If he is paid to dis- 
cover new theories he must constantly be thinking: "Discoveries 
cannot be made on order and if I don't discover anything, I shall 
disappoint my employers and receive my pay for nothing." But if 
he is active as a technician or a teacher, he is always doing some- 
thing useful and hence has a clear conscience. On his own ideas 
he should work for pleasure only. 

This may be a little exaggerated, since ultimately pure science 
has a social value too. But it is certain that Einstein has had a 
definite aversion to pure research as a profession. Actually, as 
fate would have it, after moving to Berlin he was permanently 
what he did not want to be a pure research worker. This 


Einstein at Berlin 

was the situation in Berlin, and he was to obtain a similar posi- 
tion later in Princeton. 

The contradiction in Einstein's relation to his environment is 
also manifested in his aversion to giving regular lectures cov- 
ering the entire field of physics, even though probably few 
physicists are interested in and familiar with more fields of phys- 
ics than he is. Very many, indeed most specialists, in physics as 
well as in other sciences, are hardly able to understand any- 
thing complicated that does not belong within their narrow 
field. Most of them are inclined to exaggerate enormously the 
significance of their "subject"; they consider every thought de- 
voted to outside matters as a betrayal of pure research and a 
concession to dilettantism, Einstein has been the exact opposite 
of this type. One may recount to him the most complicated 
physical theory; he will listen attentively, and through his ques- 
tions show immediately that he has grasped the essence of the 
matter. He will almost always make a good critical comment 
or a helpful remark. Even when the construction of some ap- 
paratus is being discussed, he concerns himself with every sig- 
nificant detail and intervenes with his advice. 

Obviously Einstein is not a "teacher" if this word is taken in 
the sense in which it is current in professional circles. On the 
other hand, quite in accord with his divided attitude, which we 
have previously noted, he is more interested than most profes- 
sors in social matters, such as the position of scientific teaching 
and research in the social life of man. He has always tried to 
clarify for himself and others the reciprocal relation between 
science on the one hand and society, religion, and international 
co-operation on the other. 

In Berlin, as in many universities, it was customary to have 
a physics colloquium every week where recently published re- 
searches were discussed. It gave physicists who worked in dif- 
ferent institutions an opportunity to exchange opinions and 
ideas about every new discovery and theory. During the period 
of Einstein's stay, between 1913 and 1933, the Berlin seminar 
was an especially interesting gathering, such as hardly existed 
anywhere else in the world. Besides Einstein, Planck, and 
Nernst, there were Max von Laue, the discoverer of the diffrac- 
tion of X-rays by crystals; James Franck and Gustav Hertz, 
who discovered that light of specific color can be produced by 
the impact of high-velocity electrons; and Lise Meitner, a Vien- 
nese girl who had made such great discoveries in the field of 
radioactive phenomena that Einstein liked to call her "our 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Madame Curie/' and in private sometimes expressed the opin- 
ion that she was a more talented physicist than Madame Curie 
herself. During the latter years of this period there was also 
Erwin Schrodinger, another Austrian, who derived the quan- 
tum theory of the atom from a wave theory of matter. 

The discussions with such outstanding investigators were of 
value even to a man with great creative power like Einstein. 
At the very least he was spared the necessity of reading much 
that would otherwise have taken up a great deal of time, Ein- 
stein attended the colloquium quite regularly and took an ac- 
tive part in the discussions. He liked to branch out into all 
sorts of problems, and his remarks refreshed all who were pres- 
ent. His questions alone were sufficient to exert a stimulating 
influence. On such occasions there are always many who are 
ashamed to ask questions because they do not wish to appear 
ignorant, and usually it is just the people who take the longest 
to comprehend something who are shy. Since Einstein could 
never be suspected of slow comprehending, he did not hesitate to 
ask questions that would otherwise be considered as naive. Such 
"naive" questions, however, are often very stimulating, because 
they frequently deal with fundamental problems that no one 
really dares to touch. Most specialists would like to make be- 
lieve that they understand the fundamentals and are only seek- 
ing to explain secondary matters. Einstein's questions, which 
very often threw doubt upon a principle that appeared self- 
evident, gave the seminar a special attraction. After Einstein's 
departure from Berlin in 1933, the colloquium presented the 
appearance of a gathering from which the guest who had en- 
dowed it with lustrous brilliancy had departed. 

5. Relationship with Colleagues 

Einstein's attitude to the teaching profession was also 
connected with his concrete relations to his colleagues. There 
is no doubt that the immediate impression he made on his col- 
leagues was that of a very likable person. He was filled with a 
simple natural friendliness toward everyone, no matter what the 
individual's position. He was very amicable toward people of 
high rank; he had such a feeling of inner security that he did 
not have to demonstrate his independence by being short with 
people. He never took part in any intrigues such as occur in 


Einstein at Berlin 

all corporate bodies and professions, including university fac- 
ulties. He was not considered dangerous to anyone, because he 
never tried to frustrate anyone's desire. He was ready to con- 
verse in a friendly manner about anything and everything; he 
liked to crack jokes and to laugh at other people's jokes. He 
always avoided putting himself in the foreground and forcing 
his will on other people. This would have been easily possible 
if he had used his personality and his fame., but he did this very 
rarely, and at most to defend himself against unreasonable de- 
mands, never in an offensive manner. 

He always managed to maintain a certain "free space" around 
himself which protected him from all disturbances, a space 
large enough to contain a world erected by an artistic and scien- 
tific imagination. 

There were also certain features in his Berlin environment, 
no matter whether one calls them national or cultural peculiar- 
ities, that produced in Einstein a feeling of strangeness and lone- 
liness. In the eighteenth century, under Frederick the Great, 
Frenchmen such as Voltaire and d'Alembert had been the pride 
of the Berlin Academy. But since the Bismarck era and the 
turning of the German intellectuals to nationalism, an atmos- 
phere of voluntary or involuntary submission to the philosophy 
of the new German Reich had become more and more prev- 
alent, at first under the influence of Bismarck and later under 
that of Wilhelm II. This sentiment was also connected with a 
certain emphasis on the superiority of the German nation or 
race, which, although at that time not yet very conspicuous, 
was already quite evident to Einstein. 

But what particularly annoyed Einstein from the beginning 
was the cold, somewhat mechanical manner of the Prussians 
and their imitators, whom Einstein had feared as a student and 
from whom he had fled. Einstein sometimes expressed his feel- 
ing as follows: "These cool blond people make me feel uneasy; 
they have no psychological comprehension of others. Every- 
thing must be explained to them very explicitly." 

As a result, for a man who came from a somewhat different 
environment, and especially for a man like Einstein with a 
strong intuitive feeling for the significance of human relation- 
ships, life among them was often bound up with conflicts. Ein- 
stein experienced this feeling of strangeness even in his rela- 
tions with a man like Max Planck, who had done so much for 
Einstein's recognition as a scientist, who had supported and 
worked for his election to the Academy, and who had a high 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

opinion of him as a person. Einstein could never get rid of the 
feeling that the emotion and ideas of a man like Planck were 
actually opposed to his own and that it was only by means of 
rational arguments that Planck forced himself to say or do 
something in agreement with Einstein's views or intentions. 
Einstein always sensed the existence of a barrier behind which 
something hostile lay hidden, and therefore behind which he 
preferred not to look; but the conviction that this barrier ex- 
isted produced a sense of uneasiness, which, while sometimes 
hardly noticeable, was never completely absent. 

The degree to which this Prussian reserve and mechanical 
thinking weighed upon Einstein became evident when Erwin 
Schrodinger, the Austrian, came to Berlin as Planck's successor. 
There were no barriers; there was an immediate understanding 
between the two men without any long explanations, and an 
agreement on the manner in which they would act toward each 
other without first having to call upon Kant's categorical im- 

Einstein's solitary position in academic circles was due also 
to the fact that he did not like to take part in the problems of 
professional daily life; he was unable to take them seriously. 
The daily life of a scholar is often a matter of discussing and 
becoming excited about the frequency with which his papers are 
published, which colleagues have or have not published any- 
thing, which colleague has frequently or infrequently cited 
which other colleague, or who intentionally or unintentionally 
has failed to cite somebody else. There are discussions of the 
merits of individual professors, the honors that they have or 
have not received from their own or other universities, and the 
academies to which they have been elected. Then again the 
conversation may turn to the number of students for whom 
the professors have been able to obtain positions, the students 
and teachers whom they have been able to prevent from ob- 
taining positions, whether they have any influence with su- 
perior officials, and whether they are able to obtain money for 
their department from these authorities. 

Taken as a whole, all these problems add up to a tremendous 
total of interests and intellectual effort, in which Einstein hardly 
participated. It would be very unjust to maintain that all these 
conversations are valueless for scientific activity. On the con- 
trary, they have their justification in social life. Nevertheless, 
too much attention to these details may prevent one from deal- 
ing with the actual problems of science. It is perhaps compatible 


Einstein at Berlin 

with research in a very specialized field, but it is undoubtedly 
a considerable hindrance if one looks upon science as a religion 
and a philosophy that influence one's entire life, as Einstein had 
done throughout his life. Yet one ought not to overlook the 
fact that, in consequence of this withdrawal from the more 
trivial details of the daily life of most professors, he often de- 
prived himself of opportunities of obtaining concrete influence. 
Every social group is so constituted that petty things are inex- 
tricably interlinked with important matters, and as a result, by 
manifesting an aversion to the petty things, one easily loses the 
possibility of exercising an influence on more important mat- 
ters. For a man like Einstein, however, such means of exerting 
his influence were so disagreeable that he could very rarely de- 
cide to make use of them. 

This aversion to petty talk was more than compensated for 
in unbounded readiness to discuss scientific problems and ques- 
tions of general interest with his colleagues. Without the slight- 
est trace of pomposity he turned to his colleagues for advice, 
even to those younger than he if they were more conversant 
with special problems. And all this took place quite informally. 

Einstein was always very intent on being a person who did not 
require any special consideration. On one occasion he was sup- 
posed to pay his respects to a member of the Berlin Academy. 
He was not very fond of such formal visits, but he had heard 
that Professor Stumpf, a well-known psychologist, was greatly 
interested in the problems of space perception. Einstein thought 
that he would be able to discuss matters of mutual interest that 
might have some connection with the theory of relativity, and 
he decided to make this call On the chance that he might find 
the professor at home, he went there at eleven in the morning. 
When he arrived, the maid told him that the Herr Geheimrat 
was not at home. She asked Einstein whether he would like to 
leave a message, but he said it was unnecessary. He did not want 
to disturb anyone, and would come back later in the day. "In the 
meantime," he said, "I'm going to take a walk in the park." At 
two in the afternoon Einstein returned. "Oh," said the maid, 
"since you were here the Hcrr Geheimrat came home, had his 
lunch, and because I did not say that you would come back, he 
is taking his afternoon nap," "Never mind," said Einstein, "111 
come back later." He went for another walk and came back 
again at four. This time he was finally able to see the Geheimrat. 
"You see," Einstein said to the maid, "in the end patience and 
perseverance are always rewarded." 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

The Geheimrat and his wife were happy to see the famous 
Einstein and assumed that he was now making his formal in- 
troductory visit. Einstein, however, immediately began to talk 
about his new generalization of the relativity theory and ex- 
plained in detail its relation to the problem of space. Professor 
Stumpf, who was a psychologist without any extensive mathe- 
matical knowledge, understood very little of the discussion and 
was hardly able to put a word in edgewise. After Einstein had 
talked for about forty minutes, he remembered that he was 
actually supposed to be paying an introductory call and that it 
had already lasted too long. Remarking that it was quite late 
already, he departed. The professor and his wife were dumb- 
founded, for they had had no opportunity to ask the customary 
questions: "How do you like Berlin?" "How are your wife and 
children?" and so on. 

6. Relationship with Students 

Einstein's chief activity in Berlin was conversing with 
colleagues and students about their own work and advising 
them about their research programs. He did not have to give 
regular courses and he lectured only occasionally, either on his 
own special field or on subjects of general interest to lay audi- 

Even among professors whose chief activity was giving regu- 
lar courses of lectures, the guidance of students in research was 
considered to be an important part of their duties. It was the 
pride of the teachers at the German universities to have as many 
scientific investigations as possible carried out and published by 
students under their direction. Hence many students who other- 
wise would never in their life have produced an independent 
piece of work published at least a dissertation when they ac- 
quired the doctorate. For this purpose a professor had to pro- 
vide subjects of research for even untalented students who 
lacked ideas of their own, and then push them along until the 
studies were completed. In many cases the teacher could have 
carried out these investigations better and more rapidly if he 
had done the work himself, and so a certain lack of selfish- 
ness was required to waste so much effort on incompetent 

On the other hand, many professors were themselves not very 


Einstein at Berlin 

talented. They divided the subject on which they were working 
into innumerable small parts and then let each part be handled 
by a student. The student's task under these circumstances was 
relatively easy, and was dealt with in great detail so as to create 
an impression of being important. In this way there arose what 
was known in Germany as the "Betrieb" (mill), where to all 
outward appearances no distinction is made between worth- 
while ideas and trivialities. Everything produced was a "con- 
tribution to the literature/' which had to be cited by every sub- 
sequent writer if he wanted to be "scientific." An agreeable 
feeling of activity surrounded both teacher and students. They 
became so engrossed in this activity and industry that the larger 
problem that the partial studies were supposed to elucidate was 
often forgotten. The production of dissertations and papers be- 
came an end in itself. 

Einstein never evinced any interest in this kind of activity. 
Above all, he did not like the idea of raising easy questions and 
preferred to deal only with problems that naturally arise when 
investigating fundamental bases of natural phenomena. Ein- 
stein once remarked about a fairly well-known physicist: "He 
strikes me as a man who looks for the thinnest spot in a board 
and then bores as many holes as possible through it." He 
esteemed most highly those who occupied themselves with dif- 
ficult problems even if they were able to advance few steps in 
this thicket, or even if they themselves could not extend our 
knowledge in any positive sense, but were only able to make 
clear to the world the magnitude of the difficulties involved. 
With this conception of scientific work Einstein was not the 
man to have many students working under him. Whatever he 
undertook was always so difficult that he alone was able to 
carry it through. 

There was also a great difference between Einstein's attitude 
and that of his colleagues toward the peculiar, pseudo-scientific 
questions that university professors often receive by mail from 
dilettantes of science. Einstein was remarkably patient in an- 
swering them, and in many respects it was easier for him than 
for most other scientists. Many professors, even outstanding 
ones, are so immersed in their own ideas that it is difficult for 
them to comprehend ideas that deviate from the traditional, or 
are merely expressed in a way differing from that commonly 
used in scientific books. This difficulty frequently manifests it- 
self in hatred or contempt for amateurs since the professors are 
often actually incapable of refuting the ingenious objections 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

made by dilettantes to scientific theories. As a result they give 
the impression of incompetence and the falsehood of "academic 
science." Einstein, on the other hand, did not regard the differ- 
ences between the layman and the professional as being very 
great. He liked to deal with every objection and had none of 
the reluctance that makes such work so difficult for others; and 
this was especially important in his case since laymen frequently 
occupied themselves with and discussed the relativity theory. 

These characteristic features in his psychological constitution 
and in the manner in which he carried on scientific research 
brought him into closer contact with students, but here again 
not in a way that was characteristic of university professors. His 
attitude toward students was characterized chiefly by his friend- 
liness and readiness to help them. When a student really had a 
problem in which he was profoundly interested, even if it was 
a very simple one, Einstein was ready to devote any amount 
of time and effort to help him solve it. Also the incredible ease 
with which Einstein instituted even difficult scientific reflections 
and his almost equally unusual talent for comprehending rap- 
idly and thoroughly what was said to him stood him in good 
stead in these consultations. As a result he had a good deal of 
time, which he lavishly placed at the disposal of his students. 

When I came to Prague as his successor, Einstein's students 
told me with the greatest admiration and joy that immediately 
upon assuming his duties as professor there, he had said to 
them: "I shall always be able to receive you. If you have a prob- 
lem, come to me with it. You will never disturb me, since I 
can interrupt my own work at any moment and resume it 
immediately as soon as the interruption is past." 

This attitude must be judged in comparison with that of 
many professors, who tell their students that they are always oc- 
cupied with their research and do not like to be disturbed be- 
cause an interruption might possibly imperil the results of their 
intensive reflections. 

Just as it is the pride of many people never to have any time, 
so it has been Einstein's always to have time. I recall a visit I once 
paid him on which we decided to visit the astrophysical observa- 
tory at Potsdam together. We agreed to meet on a certain bridge 
in Potsdam, but since I was a good deal of a stranger in Berlin, 
I said I could not promise to be there at the appointed time. 
"Oh," said Einstein, "that makes no difference; then I will wait 
on the bridge." I suggested that that might waste too much of his 
time. "Oh no," was the rejoinder, "the kind of work I do can 


Einstein at Berlin 

be done anywhere. Why should I be less capable of reflecting 
about my problems on the Potsdam bridge than at home?" 

And this was very characteristic of Einstein. His thoughts 
flowed like a constant stream. Every conversation that inter- 
rupted his thinking was like a small stone thrown in a mighty 
river, unable to influence its course. 

There was yet another factor that brought Einstein into closer 
contact with his students. This was his need to clarify his ideas 
for himself by expressing them aloud and explaining them to 
others. Thus he often conversed with students about scientific 
problems and told them his new ideas. But Einstein did not 
really care whether the listener actually understood what was 
being explained or not; all that was necessary was that he should 
not appear too stupid or uninterested. Einstein once had an as- 
sistant who helped him with his administrative duties while at 
the same time completing his own studies in physics. Every day 
Einstein explained his new ideas to him and it was generally 
said that if this young man had had only a slight talent, he could 
have become a very great physicist few students had ever re- 
ceived such good instruction. But while the student was an 
intelligent and industrious man and an ardent admirer of Ein- 
stein, he did not become a great physicist. The influence of the 
teacher is not so great as some people believe. 

7. Outbreak of the World War 

Before Einstein had been in Berlin a whole year, the 
World War broke out in August 1914. Great enthusiasm swept 
Germany, which to a large extent arose from the feeling that 
the individual could now merge with the greater whole the 
German Empire -and stop living for himself, a feeling that 
for many people meant a great sense of relief. 

This joy, however, could not be felt by anyone who had any 
comprehension of public opinion in the great Slavic centers of 
Austria. In Prague Einstein had witnessed the gradual evolution 
by which Austrian foreign policy had become an instrument 
for the attainment of German aims, and consequently Einstein 
could not share the enthusiasm of the crowd in Berlin. He 
was placed in a rather unpleasant psychological situation. His 
feelings were comparable to those of a person in the midst of 
a group that has been stimulated by good wine, but who has 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

drunk nothing himself. He felt badly about it, because he rep- 
resented for the others a sort of quiet reproach, which they re- 
sented. Fortunately, he had a good reason to base his reserve on. 
In coming to Berlin, he had retained his Swiss nationality, 
and his lack of enthusiasm as a neutral was not taken too much 

I still remember very clearly the first visit that I paid Einstein 
during the war. When I was leaving, he said to me: "You have 
no idea how good it is to hear a voice from the outside world, 
and to be able to speak freely about everything." 

Immediately upon the outbreak of the war there arose behind 
the actual battle front an "intellectual front/' where the inteL 
lectuals of the hostile camps attacked each other and defended 
themselves with "intellectual weapons." The invasion of neutral 
Belgium by German troops had shocked the entire world, 
which still believed in the validity of "paper" treaties. Further- 
more, the suffering of the Belgian people during the fighting 
and occupation was utilized to very sound advantage by Al- 
lied propaganda. The people of western Europe asked with 
astonishment: "How can the German people, whose music we 
love and whose science we admire, be capable of such unlawful- 
ness and such atrocities ? " Partly for propagandist reasons there 
was invented the story of the "two Germanys," the Germany 
of Goethe and the Germany of Bismarck. 

The creation of this contrast was unpleasant for the German 
government, which demanded of the intellectuals that they 
publicly proclaim their solidarity with the German military 
and diplomatic conduct of the war. In the famous Manifesto of 
the Ninety-two German Intellectuals, ninety-two of the out- 
standing representatives of German art and science rejected the 
distinction between German culture and German militarism. 
The manifesto culminated in the assertion: "German culture and 
German militarism are identical." What from the German side 
was regarded as a disavowal of disunity in the life-struggle of 
the nation was considered the height of cynicism by the Allies. 

As one might expect, Einstein did not sign the manifesto. But 
it illustrates what was expected at that time of every leading 
German artist and scientist. Anyone> like Einstein, who refused 
to concur was regarded by the great majority of his colleagues 
as a renegade who had deserted his people at a difficult time. 
Only his Swiss citizenship saved Einstein from being looked 
upon as a traitor in the struggle for the existence of the German 


Einstein at Berlin 

One can understand how difficult it would have been for Ein- 
stein to identify himself publicly with that very militarism to 
which he had had the greatest aversion since childhood. 

8. German Science in the War 

With the outbreak of the war, all of Einstein's col- 
leagues became active in one way or another in war service. 
Physicists were employed in wireless telegraphy, in constructing 
submarine sound detectors, in predicting weather, and various 
other important scientific projects. Some served because they 
felt it to be their duty, others because such work was less un- 
pleasant than service on the battle fronts. On the other hand, 
there were some who felt they should share the dangers and 
hardships of the soldiers in the trenches instead of working in 
a safe laboratory. 

Walter Nernst, who has been mentioned several times al- 
ready, performed valuable services in the investigation of poison 
gases. Fritz Haber, a close scientific friend of Einstein, de- 
veloped a process for the manufacture of ammonia utilizing 
atmospheric nitrogen, a process of great significance since am- 
monia is a chemical necessary for the manufacture of artificial 
fertilizers and explosives and since Germany was unable to im- 
port natural ammonia compounds because of the English block- 
ade. Haber was of Jewish origin, but he was strongly influenced 
by such Prussian ideas as high regard for military power and 
the subordination of personal feelings to this supreme value. For 
their service both Nernst and Haber received the rank of major 
in the German army. To Nernst this title was only a minor sat- 
isfaction to his vanity, and he did not esteem it very highly, but 
for Haber it was a source of great satisfaction and sincere pride. 
In the Treaty of Versailles both Nernst and Haber were listed 
by the Allies among the "war criminals" whom Germany was 
supposed to give up for trial before an international court. No 
serious demand for their surrender was ever made, however. 

All this work which the scientists performed for the war ef- 
fort was only natural at a time of national peril, no matter what 
their attitudes were to the government in power. But there was 
still another way in which they participated in the war: they 
engaged actively in the war on the "intellectual front." There 
began a battle of words and of propaganda by which the achieve- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

ments of German scientists were stressed while those of the 
workers in the enemy countries were depreciated. A group of 
German physicists sent a circular to all their colleagues in 
which they urged them not to cite the works of English physi- 
cists, or to do so only where this was "unavoidable." They as- 
serted that on the whole the work of Englishmen was on a 
much lower level and was frequently mentioned only because 
of an exaggerated admiration for foreigners,, an attitude that 
should now be abandoned. 

From a historical point of view it is not so much these hu- 
manly understandable attempts to exploit the war spirit for 
personal advantages that are of interest, but rather the appar- 
ently "scientific" attempts to prove that the entire structure of 
German physics differs from that of French or English physics. 
It was argued that for this reason one should adopt as little as 
possible from them, since otherwise the unity and purity of 
German science would be endangered and the minds of Ger- 
man students confused. For example, it was frequently asserted 
that German science is especially profound and thorough in 
contrast to the superficial character of French and Anglo-Amer- 
ican science. French superficiality was attributed to the "shal- 
low" rationalism that tries to comprehend everything by means 
of reason and ignores the mystery of nature; that of the Anglo- 
Saxons to the overemphasis on sensory experience, which be- 
lieves only in facts and ignores philosophical implications. 

Against this the French scientists, in so far as they participated 
in the war of words, asserted that the "thoroughness" of Ger- 
man science consists in a pedantic collection of unimportant 
facts, and its "philosophical" character in the production of a 
smoke screen that obscures the true relation between things. 
The Anglo-Saxon scientists preferred to point out that German 
science emphasizes "idealistic" principles so as to make it easier 
to excuse particularly inhuman acts; for if one must commit 
atrocities in order to carry out such principles, then they are 
"idealistically" justified. 

These arguments soon made their appearance in the con- 
troversy over the relativity theory. By using arguments of this 
kind it could be attacked by the one party as a particularly 
"German" theory and by the opposing side as particularly "un- 
German," We shall see that in this way Einstein's theories, 
which at first sight appear far removed from any political utility, 
were soon drawn into the struggles of nations and parties. 


Einstein at Berlin 

9. Life in Wartime 

During the war the newspapers in Berlin were filled 
with the battles and victories of the German army. The people 
were filled with joy and occupied themselves with discussions 
of such questions as which of the conquered territories should 
be kept by Germany after the war, whether Poland should ac- 
tually be freed or become a German protectorate, and so forth. 
They counted the number of English merchant ships sunk by 
their submarines, and many of them kept lists of the amount 
of tonnage sent to the bottom of the sea. Every day they copied 
the figures from the newspapers and conscientiously added up 
the totals like a business man making up his annual accounts. 
To their astonishment they soon found that the total exceeded 
all the tonnage England ever had, and they began to wonder 
that there were still any English ships on the sea. 

In private life, however, the pre-eminent interest of every- 
body was in obtaining food. Whoever managed a household had 
to be as cunning and ingenious as possible to get any of the 
food that occasionally appeared on the market; and to prepare 
it in a halfway palatable manner, since it was often of an un- 
usual nature. 

Einstein's health was often poor during the war, and he was 
happy to be connected with a family with whom he could eat 
home-cooked meals instead of having to depend on restaurant 
fare, whose cooking at this time was based on the hygienic in- 
structions of the military authorities. Some of Einstein's well- 
to-do relatives had previously looked upon him as the black 
sheep of the family. His running away from the gymnasium in 
Munich, his devotion to studies that could not bring him a good 
income, and his marriage to a woman completely outside their 
circle had not met their approval. It was therefore with great 
astonishment that they had heard of his growing fame. When 
Einstein was called to Berlin and made a member of the Royal 
Prussian Academy, they felt honored to have him at their homes 
and to be mentioned as his relatives. Einstein accepted this situa- 
tion good-humoredly. 

In his uncle's house Einstein again met his cousin Elsa, with 
whom he had been friends as children in Munich. She was now 
a widow with two daughters, a woman of friendly, maternal 
temperament, fond of amusing conversation, and interested in 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

creating a pleasant home and preparing the scanty wartime 
meals as best she could. Einstein often went to their house, and 
found a new family life there. 

Frau Elsa could not study the works of great physicists with 
him as Mileva Maritsch had done at Zurich. She had a happy 
outlook on life, and not the harsh, self-denying nature of the 
Slavic student. Regarding Einstein as a physicist, she knew only 
that he had now become a famous man whom the outstanding 
scientists of the Prussian Academy, the University of Berlin, and 
foreign countries recognized as their equal and often as their 
superior. To have such a relative and friend was a source of 
pride and joy to her and she wanted to relieve him of the cares 
of daily life. Einstein, who valued friendliness, often made him- 
self useful in her house by practicing "applied physics." 

When I visited Berlin on one occasion during the war, Ein- 
stein invited me to his uncle's house for dinner. I declined at 
first, saying: "Right now when everything is so scarce no one 
likes to have an unexpected guest." Thereupon Einstein replied 
in his sincere manner, which sounded like the simplicity of a 
child but which could equally well be regarded as acid criticism: 
"You need have no scruples. On the contrary, my uncle has 
more food than the per capita average of the population. If 
you eat at his table you are serving the cause of social justice." 
There I met his cousin Elsa for the first time. She said to 
me half playfully, half in earnest: "I know very well what a 
talented physicist our Albertle is. In these times we have to buy 
food in all kinds of cans which no one knows how to open. 
Often they are of unfamiliar, foreign make, rusted, bent, and 
without the key necessary to open them. But there hasn't been 
a single one yet that our Albertle has not been able to open." 

While the war was still going on, Einstein married his cousin 
Elsa., He, who had always had something of the bohemian in 
him, began to lead a middle-class life. Or, to put it more exactly, 
Einstein began to live in a household such as was typical of a 
well-to-do Berlin family. He lived in a spacious apartment in 
the so-called "Bavarian quarter." This section had nothing Ba- 
varian about it except that the streets were generally named 
after Bavarian cities. He lived in the midst of beautiful furni- 
ture, carpets, and pictures; his meals were prepared and eaten at 
regular times. Guests were invited. But when one entered this 
home, one found that Einstein still remained a "foreigner" in 
such a surrounding a bohemian guest in a middle-class home. 

Elsa Einstein had many of the characteristics of the people of 


Einstein at Berlin 

her native Swabia. She valued greatly what was known in 
Germany and especially in Swabia as " GemutTich\eit" It is no 
wonder that she was very happy when she saw the esteem and 
admiration in which her husband was held and which she 
shared as his wife. Nevertheless, there were always two sides to 
the job of being the wife of a famous man. The people about 
her were always inclined to look very critically at her and, as 
a compensation for the respect that they reluctantly paid her 
husband, to unload upon her all the reproaches they would 
have liked to bring against him. 

When Elsa Einstein was discussed in professional circles in 
Berlin, one could hear all sorts of criticism of this nature. The 
most harmless was probably the assertion that her intellectual 
capacities hardly fitted her to be Einstein's wife. But if Einstein 
had followed this criticism, what woman could he have mar- 
ried ? The question was, rather, could she create tolerable liv- 
ing conditions for Einstein in which he could carry on his 
work? And in considerable measure she did so. There is no 
ideal solution to this problem, and since Einstein believed less 
than most men in the possibility of an ideal solution, he did not 
feel hurt when his wife did not completely represent this ideal. 

Some professors complained that because of her it was diffi- 
cult for physicists to gain access to Einstein. She preferred, they 
claimed, to have Einstein meet writers, artists, or politicians, be- 
cause she understood these people better and considered them 
more valuable. Einstein, however, was certainly not the man to 
be easily influenced in the choice of his company. He himself 
liked to mingle with all kinds of people and did not restrict 
himself to professional circles. It may sometimes have happened 
that a visitor whom Einstein did not wish to see put the blame 
on Einstein's wife because he did not want to admit to himself 
that his company was not so interesting for Einstein as he 
himself thought it ought to be. 

Others complained that Mrs. Einstein placed too much value 
on the external symbols of fame and did not really know how 
to value her husband's inner greatness. It is obvious, however, 
that the wife of a great man can understand most easily the 
effect of his activities on public opinion, and that this will con- 
sequently interest her more than anything else. 

Any woman in Elsa Einstein's position would probably have 
acted more or less as she did. The only difference was that the 
public is rarely so much interested in the life of a scientist as it 
was in Einstein's. On this account his wife was blamed for vari- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

ous things that are actually common occurrences. The married 
life of a great man has always been a difficult problem, no mat- 
ter how he or his wife is constituted. Nietzsche once said: "A 
married philosopher,, is to put it bluntly, a ridiculous figure." 

Einstein was protected against various difficulties by the cir- 
cumstance that he always kept a certain part of his inner self 
from any contact with others, and that he had no desire to share 
his inner life completely with anyone. He was very much aware 
that every happiness has its shadows, and accepted this fact 
without protest. 

When in 1932 some women's clubs opposed Einstein's entry 
into the United States because in their opinion he spread subver- 
sive doctrines, e.g., pacifism, Einstein remarked jokingly to a 
representative of the Associated Press : "Why should one admit 
a man who is so vulgar as to oppose every war except the inevi- 
table one with his own wife ?" 

And on another occasion he made a remark based on many 
years of experience: "When women are in their homes, they are 
attached to their furniture. They run around it all day long and 
are always fussing with it. But when I am with a woman on a 
journey, I am the only piece of furniture that she has available, 
and she cannot refrain from moving around me all day long 
and improving something about me." 

This lack of any illusion about the possibility of happiness in 
life has saved Einstein from the mistake made by many a hus- 
band who looks upon all the defects that are characteristic of 
life itself as defects in his wife and in consequence plays the 
stern judge with her instead of remembering her good qualities 
and accepting her bad ones as a necessity of nature. 

During this period Einstein's first wife and his two sons lived 
in Switzerland. This circumstance caused Einstein a great deal 
of financial worry because of the great difficulty in transferring 
money from Germany to Switzerland and the rate of exchange, 
which became more and more unfavorable as the war pro- 
gressed. But since her student days Mileva Maritsch was so at- 
tached to her life in Switzerland that on no account would she 
live in Germany. 




i. New Theory of Gravitation 

The war and the psychological conditions produced 
by it in the world of science did not prevent Einstein from de- 
voting himself with the greatest intensity to improving his 
theory of gravitation. Working along the line of his ideas that 
he had found in Prague and Zurich., he succeeded in 1916 in 
developing a completely independent, logically unified theory 
of gravitation. Einstein's conception differed fundamentally 
from that of Newton, and a real understanding of his theory 
requires a wide knowledge of mathematical methods. Without 
using any mathematical formulae, I shall here attempt to present 
the fundamental ideas in so far as they are necessary for our 
understanding of Einstein's personality and the influence of his 
theory on his period and environment. 

The great difficulty involved in explaining Einstein's new 
theory lies in the fact that it does not arise from any slight 
modification of Newtonian mechanics. It bursts asunder the 
entire framework within which Newton attempted to compre- 
hend all phenomena of motion. The familiar concepts of 
"force," "acceleration," "absolute space," and so on have no place 
in Einstein's theory. Even to the average physicist the principles 
composing Newtonian mechanics seem either to be proved by 
experience or by reasoning, and it is hardly possible for him to 
comprehend any change in a structure that he has come to re- 
gard as immutable. This is an illusion that must be destroyed 
in order to be able to understand Einstein's theory. 

According to Newton's law of inertia, a body not acted on 
by any force moves in a straight line with constant velocity. 
This is true no matter what is the mass or other physical prop- 
erties of the body involved. Hence it may be stated that its mo- 
tion can be described "geometrically." On the other hand, if 
any force acts on the body, then, according to Newton's law of 
force, it experiences acceleration inversely proportional to its 
mass. Consequently, particles with different masses perform dif- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

ferent paths under the action of the same force. Motion under 
force can only be described by using a non-geometrical term 

We have seen in Section 8 of Chapter IV, however, that 
in his gravitational theory of 1911 Einstein had noted that the 
force of gravity has the unique property that its influence is 
independent of the mass of the body on which it acts. And as 
a consequence he had concluded that the presence of a gravita- 
tional field of force cannot be distinguished from the result of 
accelerated motion of the laboratory. This means that not only 
motion under no force, but also motion under gravitational force 
alone can be described purely geometrically, if these forces 
are parallel and of equal magnitude in the whole region con- 

| With this foundation, the problem that .now faced Einstein 
was this: What is the geometrical form of the path which a 
body in a gravitational field describes relative to any laboratory ? 

Einstein's solution of this problem is based on a concept that 
the laws of geometry in a space where there exists gravitational 
field are different from those in a space which is "free of forces" 
in the old sense. This was an idea so novel that the physicists 
and mathematicians used to nineteenth-century physics were be- 
wildered by it. In order to understand what Einstein meant, we 
must go back to the positivistic conception of science, and in 
particular to the ideas of Henri Poincare described in Section 9 
of Chapter II. According to this view, the truth of mathematical 
propositions concerning points, straight lines, and so forth can 
only be verified in our world of experience when these math- 
ematical notions are defined in terms of physical operations. We 
must give what P. W. Bridgman calls the "operational defini- 
tions" to the geometrical terms. For example, we must define 
"straight lines" in terms of certain steel rods prepared according 
to a specified method, and if we make a triangle with these rods 
we can verify by actual measurement on this triangle whether 
the angles add up to two right angles or not. 

By means of other experiments we can then investigate 
whether these rods actually have all the properties that geometry 
postulates about "straight lines." For instance, we can measure 
whether such a rod is really the shortest line connecting two 
points. Of course in order to be able to carry out this measure- 
ment we must also describe a physical operation of measuring 
the length of a curved line. It may be found that when a triangle 
is formed by joining these points by lines that form the shortest 


The General Theory of Relativity 

distances between these points, the sum of the angles of this 
triangle does not equal two right angles. We are then faced 
with a dilemma. If we say that the lines forming this triangle 
are straight lines, we retain the property of the straight line to be 
the shortest distance between any two points, but then the 
theorem of the sum of angles is no longer valid. On the other 
hand, if we want the theorem to be valid, the property to be the 
shortest distance has to be rejected. We are free to decide which 
property we retain for the lines we call "straight," but we cannot 
have them both as in Euclidean geometry. 

Einstein's fundamental assumption can now be re-expressed 
in this form: In a space where masses that exert gravitational 
forces are present, Euclidean geometry ceases to be valid. In this 
theory curves which are the shortest distances between any two 
points have special significance, and the angles of a triangle 
formed by these lines do not add up to two right angles where 
a gravitational field exists. 

This distinction between Euclidean space and the "curved" 
space of Einstein can be illustrated by considering a similar dis- 
tinction between a plane surface and a curved surface. For all 
triangles on a plane surface, all of Euclid's theorems hold true; 
but what happens for triangles on a curved surface ? Take for ex- 
ample the surface of the earth. If we are restricted to only those 
points which actually lie on the surface and cannot consider any 
point lying above or below it, there are no "straight lines" in the 
usual sense. But the curves which form the shortest distance be- 
tween two points on the earth's surface are important in naviga- 
tion and geodesy; they are called geodesic lines. For the surface of 
the sphere, the geodesic lines are arcs of great circles, and con- 
sequently all the meridians defining longitude and the equator 
are geodesic. If we consider a triangle formed by the North Pole 
and two points on the equator it is bounded by geodesic lines. 
The equator cuts all the meridians perpendicularly so that the 
two angles at the base of the triangle are both right angles, and 
hence the sum of the angles is greater than two right angles by 
just the value of the polar angle. A similar situation always holds 
for any curved surface, and, conversely, if the sum of the angles 
of a triangle formed by geodesic lines on a surface does not equal 
exactly two right angles, then the surface is curved. 

This notion of curvature of a surface is extended to space. 
Geodesic lines are defined as curves forming the shortest dis- 
tances between any two points in space, and the space is called 
"curved" if the angles of a triangle formed by three geodesic 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

lines do not add up to two right angles. According to Ein- 
stein's theory, the presence of material bodies produces certain 
curvatures in space, and the path of a particle moving in a 
gravitational field is determined by this curvature of space. 
Einstein found that such paths can be described most simply 
by considering the geometry of this curved space rather than 
by ascribing its deviation from a straight line to the existence 
of forces as Newton had done. Furthermore,, Einstein found that 
not only the paths of material particles, but also those of light 
rays in a gravitational field can be described simply in terms of 
geodesic lines in this curved space; and, conversely, that the 
curvature of space can be inferred from observations on the path 
of moving bodies and light rays. 

We shall see later that many people, even some physicists, 
considered it absurd to say that any conclusion about the curva- 
ture of space can be drawn from the form of light rays. Some 
even considered it completely nonsensical to say that a space is 
"curved." To them, a surface or a line may be curved in space, 
but to say that space itself is "curved" seemed preposterous and 
absurd. This opinion, however, is based on ignorance of the 
geometrical mode of expression. As we have seen above, a 
"curved space" simply means a space in which the sum of the 
angles of a triangle formed by geodesic lines does not equal 
two right angles, and this terminology is used because of the 
analogous distinction between flat and curved surfaces. It is fu- 
tile to try to picture what a curved space "looks" like, except by 
describing the measurement of triangles. 

2. Role of Four-Dimensional Space 

If we wish to describe the motion of a certain particle 
completely, it is not sufficient to give the shape of its trajectory, 
but it is necessary to add how the position of the particle on 
this trajectory varies with the time. For instance, to say that the 
motion of a particle uninfluenced by any force in the Newtonian 
sense is rectilinear is not complete; we must add that its motion 
takes place with constant velocity. 

The complete motion can, however, be presented in a ge- 
ometrical form by adding a dimension to the number necessary 
to describe the trajectory. For example, in the simplest case of 
a rectilinear motion, the trajectory is a straight line, and the po- 


The General Theory of Relativity 

sition of the particle describing it can be specified by giving the 
distance that the particle is from a certain definite point on the 
straight line. We now take a sheet of paper and plot these dis- 
tances along one direction, and for each point plot in a direction 
perpendicular to the distance the time corresponding to each 
position. Then the curve drawn through these points gives the 
complete geometrical presentation of the motion. If the mo- 
tion takes place with constant velocity as well as being recti- 
linear, the curve will be a straight line. Thus motion along a 
straight line, or one-dimensional motion, to express it techni- 
cally, can be represented completely on a plane that is, in two- 
dimensional space. Now, the space of our experience has three 
dimensions; to specify the position of a ball in a room, we must 
give three numbers, the distances from the two walls and its 
height above the floor. Hence we need three dimensions to de- 
scribe the trajectory of a general motion, and four dimensions 
to give a complete presentation of the motion. The motion of a 
particle is specified completely by a curve in a four-dimensional 

This notion of four-dimensional space, simple as it is, has given 
rise to a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. Some 
writers have maintained that these curves in four-dimensional 
space are "only aids for mathematical presentation" and "do 
not really exist." The statement "do not really exist," however, 
is a pure truism, since the statement "really existing" is used in 
daily life to describe only directly observable objects in our three- 
dimensional space. In contrast to this, many authors, especially 
philosophers and philosophically tinged physicists, have taken 
the point of view that only the events in four-dimensional space 
are real, and a representation in three-dimensional space is only 
a subjective picture of reality. We can readily see that such 
a position is equally justified except that the word "real" is used 
in a different sense. To clear up this disagreement we have to 
use a little semantics. 

In his special theory of relativity developed at Bern, Ein- 
stein had shown that when mechanical and optical phenomena 
are described by means of clocks and measuring rods, the de- 
scription depends on the motion of the laboratory in which 
these instruments are used. And he had been able to state the 
mathematical relations that correlate the various descriptions 
of the same physical event. In 1908 Hermann Minkowski, Ein- 
stein's former professor of mathematics at Zurich, showed that 
this relationship between different descriptions of the same phe- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

nomena can be represented mathematically in a very simple 
manner. He pointed out that these different descriptions o a mo- 
tion represented by a curve in four-dimensional space are math- 
ematically what are known as "projections of this four-dimen- 
sional curve on different three-dimensional spaces." Minkowski 
therefore took the view that only the four-dimensional curve 
"really" exists, and the different descriptions are merely dif- 
ferent pictures of the same reality. This concept is analogous to 
saying that a fixed object in three-dimensional space, say a house, 
"really exists," but that photographs of this house taken from 
various directions 'that is, two-dimensional projections of the 
three-dimensional house never represent reality itself, but only 
descriptions of it from different points of view. 

Obviously the word "real" is not used in the same sense here 
as when we say that only the three-dimensional body is "real" 
and that the four-dimensional presentation is simply an in- 
vented mathematical schema. In Minkowski's speech "real" 
means the "simplest theoretical presentation of our experiences," 
while in the other sense it means "our experience expressed as 
directly as possible in ordinary, everyday language." 

Einstein's theory of gravitation started out from this repre- 
sentation of motion as a curve in four-dimensional space. Mo- 
tion, if neither gravity nor any other force is acting, is represented 
by the simplest curve, the straight line, in flat, four-dimensional 
space. If only gravity but no other force is acting, Einstein as- 
sumed that the space becomes curved, but the motion is still 
represented by the simplest curve in such a space. Since there 
are no straight lines in curved space, he took for the simplest 
curve in space the curve with the shortest length between any 
two points that is, the geodesic line. Hence motion of a 
particle under gravity is represented by a geodesic curve in four- 
dimensional curved space, and this curvature of space is deter- 
mined by the distribution of matter which produces the gravi- 
tational field. 

Thus Einstein's general theory of relativity consists of two 
groups of laws: 

First: The field laws which state how the masses present pro- 
duce the curvature in space. 

Second: The laws of motion both for material particles and 
for light rays which state how the geodesic lines can be found 
for a space whose curvature is known. 

This new theory of Einstein was a fulfillment of the program 
of Ernst Mach, From the material bodies present in space it 


The General Theory of Relativity 

enables one to calculate the curvature of space, and from this 
the motion of bodies. According to Einstein,, the inertia of bodies 
is not due, as Newton has assumed, to their efforts to maintain 
their direction of motion in absolute space, but rather to the in- 
fluence of the masses about them the fixed stars, as Mach had 

3. Einstein Suggests Experimental Tests of His Theory 

Einstein's new theory, which so boldly and fundamen- 
tally changed the tested and successful Newtonian theory, was 
originally based on arguments of logical simplicity and gen- 
erality. The question naturally arose whether new phenomena 
could be deduced from this theory which differed from those 
derived from the old, and which could be used as experimental 
tests between the two theories. Otherwise Einstein's theory re- 
mained only a mathematical-philosophical construction, which 
provided a certain degree of mental stimulation and pleasure 
but contributed nothing about physical reality. Einstein himself 
always recognized a new theory only if it uncovered a new field* 
of the physical world. 

Einstein showed mathematically that in "weak" gravitational 
fields his theory predicted the same results as Newton's. Here 
the curvature of our three-dimensional space is negligible, and 
the only difference comes from the new mathematical approach 
in the addition of the fourth dimension. The calculation of mo- 
tionfor example, that of the earth around the sun gives 
exactly the same result as that obtained from Newton's law of 
force and his theory of gravitation. It is only when the velocity 
of a body is comparable to that of light that any difference be- 
tween the two theories can be detected. 

In order to find phenomena where spatial curvature plays pos- 
sibly a role, Einstein searched among the observations of celes- 
tial bodies for motions that were inconsistent with the predic- 
tions of Newtonian mechanics. He found one case. It had long 
been known that Mercury, a planet close to the sun and thus 
strongly exposed to its gravitational field, did not move exactly as 
predicted by Newton's theory. According to the old theory, all 
planets should perform elliptical orbits whose position in space 
are fixed in relation to the stars, but, it had been observed that 
the elliptical orbit of Mercury rotates around the sun at the very 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

small rate of 43.5 seconds of an arc per century. This discrepancy 
had never been given a satisfactory explanation. When Einstein 
calculated the motion of Mercury according to his theory, he 
found that the orbit should actually rotate as observed. From 
the very beginning this achievement has been a strong argument 
in favor of Einstein's theory. 

The effect of the curvature of space on the path of light rays 
is more impressive. While still at Prague Einstein had pointed 
out the possibility of bending rays of light as they passed close 
to the surface of the sun. He had calculated., on the basis of 
Newton's law of force and his own theory of gravitation of 
1911, that the deflection should be 0.87 seconds of an arc. Ac- 
cording to his new theory of curved space, Einstein found the 
deflection is 1.75 seconds, actually twice as great as his former 

The third prediction that Einstein made was on the change 
in wave length of light emitted by a star. His calculation showed 
that light, in leaving the star where it is emitted, has to pass 
through its gravitational field, and this passage shifts the wave 
length toward the red. Even for the sun the effect turned out 
to be hardly observable, but in the case of the very dense com- 
panion star to Sirius it seemed to be of observable magnitude. 

It is important to note that of these three phenomena pre- 
dicted by the theory, only one of them, the motion of Mercury, 
was actually known at the time Einstein developed his theory. 
The other two were entirely new phenomena, which had never 
been observed or even suspected. Both of these predictions re- 
ceived unqualified verification some years later, and so gave con- 
clusive evidence of the correctness of the theory. It is very re- 
markable and a great tribute to Einstein that he was able to 
develop a theory which started from few fundamental princi- 
ples and using the criterion of logical simplicity and generality 
led to amazing results. 

4. Cosmologlcal Problems 

Even before his new theory had been completely un- 
derstood by the great majority of physicists, it was already evi- 
dent to Einstein that it was unable to give a correct presentation 
of the universe as a whole. 
During the nineteenth century the commonest conception of 

The General Theory of Relativity 

the universe was that there are groups of material bodies like 
our Milky Way, and outside this region is "empty" space, which 
extends infinitely far. This view had, however, already aroused 
doubts among some scientists around the end of the century. For 
in this case the stars would behave like a cloud of vapor and 
there was nothing to prevent them from dispersing into the sur- 
rounding empty space. Since infinite time and space are avail- 
able, the whole universe would eventually become completely 

From the standpoint of Einstein's theory, this conception of 
the material universe as an island in empty space had additional 
difficulty. This is due to the equivalence principle, by which 
gravitational and inertial masses are considered identical. It will 
be remembered that Ernst Mach first pointed out as a defect of 
Newtonian mechanics that in it inertial motion, rectilinear mo- 
tion in empty space, is a process uninfluenced by the presence 
of other masses. Mach proposed instead the assumption that the 
effect of inertia is due to motion relative to the fixed stars. Ein- 
stein had introduced this idea in his theory as "Mach's postu- 
late" when he assumed that gravitational field, and conse- 
quently inertial effects, are determined by the distribution of 
matter. If the material bodies formed an island in empty space, 
then, according to Einstein, only a finite part of space would be 
"curved." This region, however, would be surrounded by a 
"flat" space extending to infinity in all directions. In this flat 
space, bodies not acted on by any force would move in straight 
lines in accordance with Newton's law of inertia, and the in- 
ertial force would not be determined by the distribution of mat- 
ter. For this reason, the idea of curved "space being enclosed in 
an infinite flat space is inconsistent with Mach's postulate. 

The next possible assumption then was that matter does not 
form an island, but rather that all of space is filled more or less 
densely with matter. However, if we further assume that all 
these masses act upon each other according to Newton's law, 
then we again run into a difficulty. For matter at large distances 
exerts individually small eff ects, but the total amount of matter 
at large distances increases in such a way that there is an infinite 
amount of matter at infinity which exerts an infinitely strong 
force. Observations show that stars are not acted on by such 
forces, for in this case they would reach high velocities, while 
all actually observed velocities of stars are small in comparison 
with the speed of light. 

Einstein cleared up this difficulty by pointing out that in his 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

theory of curved space uniform distribution of matter does not 
necessarily mean that there is an infinite amount of matter. 
There is the possibility that., owing to the curvature, space does 
not extend to infinity. This does not mean, however, that there 
are boundaries in space beyond which is nothing, not even empty 
space. The situation may perhaps be illustrated by the same ex- 
ample with which I explained the curvature of space. The sur- 
face of the earth is a two-dimensional curved surface which has 
finite area but has no boundaries. Certain objects, say cities, may 
be distributed more or less uniformly on its surface, but the total 
number of cities is finite. Furthermore, if one travels in a given 
direction along any geodesic (a great circle in this case), one 
returns to the original point of departure. In the same way the 
space of our experiences may be curved in such a way that it 
is finite but unbounded. It becomes meaningful to ask how 
much matter is contained in the universe, what is the "radius 
of curvature" of our space, and consequently what is the aver- 
age density of matter in space. 

There is still another possibility, however. Matter may fill "in- 
finite" space with approximate uniformity, but the whole uni- 
verse may not be at rest, but expanding, so that the density of 
matter is decreasing. At present it is not yet possible to say with 
certainty which of the two hypotheses concerning the distribu- 
tion of matter is correct. Later on, Einstein envisaged also the 
possibility that space might be "curved" without the presence of 
masses, contrary to Mach's original assumption. 

At any rate, the view that matter does not form an island in 
infinite empty space is supported by modern astronomy. The 
researches of Harlow Shapley and his collaborators have shown 
that space, as far as can be seen with present telescopes, seems 
to be similar everywhere to the region of our Milky Way. Thus 
it is plausible to assume with Einstein that on the average the 
entire universe is uniformly filled with matter. Also by count- 
ing the number of stars and measuring their distances from us, 
Shapley has been able to obtain a rough value for the average 
density of matter in the universe. Furthermore, from observa- 
tions of the velocity of recession of the distant nebulx and Ein- 
stein's law of motion it has been possible to calculate such quan- 
tities as the radius of curvature and the volume of space,, and 
the total amount of matter in it. 

The General Theory of Relativity 

5. Expeditions to Test Einstein's Theory 

For the mathematician, Einstein's new conception of 
gravitation was characterized by beauty and logical simplicity. 
For the observational astronomer there still remained the dis- 
quieting doubt that all this might be mere fantasy. Newton's 
theory had served them well and it would require more than 
mathematical elegance to change their views. According to the 
astronomers, a solar eclipse was needed for the test. 

New theories to use a comparison that Einstein likes to em- 
ploy are comparable to beautiful dresses, which when dis- 
played in a dressmaker's salon attracts every feminine eye. A cel- 
ebrated beauty orders this dress, but will it fit her ? Will it add 
to or detract from her beauty ? Not until she has worn it in the 
full glare of lights can she tell. Einstein's theory was a kind of 
unworn dress that had been in a shop window. The solar eclipse 
was the first affair at which it was to be worn. 

While the war was still in progress, Einstein's papers on the 
general theory of relativity became known in England. The 
abstract discussion could be followed only with difficulty, and 
the new conceptions about motion in the universe could not 
yet be appreciated in all their logical implications. But their 
boldness was already admired. For the first time a well-founded 
proposal had been advanced to change the laws of the universe 
set up by Isaac Newton, England's pride. 

For the English, with their tendency toward experimental 
verification, one thing was clear. A number of definite experi- 
ments had been pointed out to the observer of nature whose re- 
sults could give decisive evaluation to the merits of the theory. 
And among these it was pre-eminently Einstein's prediction on 
the shift in the position of the stellar images during a total solar 
eclipse that made it possible to test his two theories, the Prague 
theory of 1911 and the Berlin theory of 1916. As early as March 
1917 the Astronomer Royal had pointed out that on March 29, 
1919 a total solar eclipse would take place that would offer un- 
usually favorable conditions for testing Einstein's theories, since 
the darkened sun would be situated in the midst of a group of 
particularly bright stars, the Hyades. 

Although at that time no one knew whether it would be pos- 
sible to send expeditions to those regions of the earth where the 
observation of the total eclipse would be possible, the Royal So- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

ciety and the Royal Astronomical Society of London appointed 
a committee to make preparations for an expedition. When the 
armistice was signed on November n, 1918, the committee im- 
mediately set to work and announced the detailed plans for the 
expedition on March 27. The committee was headed by Sir 
Arthur Eddington, one of the few astronomers who were able 
at that time to delve deeply into the theoretical foundations of 
Einstein's theories. Eddington, moreover, was a Quaker who 
had always attached great importance to the maintenance of 
a friendly feeling between the people of "enemy" nations, and 
both during and after the war he did not join in the customary 
feeling of hate for the enemy. He also regarded all new theories 
about the universe as a means of strengthening religious feel- 
ing and of directing the attention of people away from indi- 
vidual and national egoism. 

When the sun is eclipsed by the moon, there is only a certain 
zone on the earth's surface where the entire solar disk is dark- 
ened. Since there is the chance that the weather may be poor 
during the few minutes of darkness and thwart all plans of 
observation, the Royal Society sent two expeditions to widely 
separated points within the zone of total eclipse. One set out 
for Sobral in northern Brazil, while the second sailed for the 
isle of Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa. Eddington 
was in personal charge of the second group. 

When the expedition arrived in Brazil, it aroused not a little 
astonishment and something of a sensation. The war with Ger- 
many was hardly over, and the newspapers were still full of 
propaganda and counter-propaganda. These had not spared 
scientific activities, but yet here was a costly expedition coming 
from England to test the theories of a German scientist. A news- 
paper in Para, Brazil, wrote: "Instead of trying to establish a 
German theory, the members of the expedition, who are well 
acquainted with the heavens, should rather try to obtain rain 
for the country, which has suffered from a long drought." The 
expedition was really in luck, since several days after its arrival 
it began to rain in Sobral. The savants had justified the public's 
confidence in science. 

I shall not describe the observations made in Brazil, but merely 
those made by the group on the isle of Principe. The astrono- 
mers arrived a month before the date of the eclipse in order to set 
up their instruments and to make the necessary preparations. 
And then came the few minutes of total eclipse, with the dis- 
quieting uncertainty whether it would be possible to photo- 


The General Theory of Relativity 

graph the stars in the neighborhood of the darkened sun, or 
the clouds would hide the stars and nullify the months of prep- 
aration. Sir Arthur Eddington gave the following description 
of these moments: 

"On the day of the eclipse the weather was unfavourable. When 
totality began, the dark disc of the moon surrounded by the corona 
was visible through cloud, much as the moon often appears through 
cloud on a night when no stars can be seen. There was nothing for it 
but to carry out the arranged programme and hope for the best. One 
observer was occupied changing the plates in rapid succession, whilst 
the other gave the exposures of the required length with a screen 
held in front of the object-glass to avoid shaking the telescope in any 

For in and out, above, about, below 

'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show 

Played in a Box whose candle is the Sun 

Round which we Phantom Figures come and go. 

"Our shadow box takes up all our attention. There is a marvellous 
spectacle above and as the photographs afterwards revealed, a won- 
derful prominence flame is poised a hundred thousand miles above 
the surface of the sun. We have no time to snatch a glance at it. We 
are conscious only of the weird half-light of the landscape and the 
hush of nature, broken by the calls of the observers and the beat of 
the metronome ticking out the 302 seconds of totality. 

"Sixteen photographs were obtained, with exposures ranging from 
2 to 20 seconds. The earlier photographs showed no stars . . . but 
apparently the cloud lightened somewhat towards the end of totality, 
and a few images appeared on the later plates. In many cases one or 
the other of the most essential stars was missing through cloud, and 
no use could be made of them; but one plate was found showing 
fairly good images of five stars, which were suitable for a deter- 

Tense with excitement, Eddington and his collaborators com- 
pared the best of the pictures that they had obtained with photo- 
graphs of the same stars taken in London, where they were far 
removed from the sun and therefore not exposed to its direct 
gravitational effect. There actually was a shift of the stellar im- 
ages away from the sun corresponding to a deflection of the 
light rays approximately as large as that expected on the basis 
of Einstein's new theory of 1916 (fig. 3 and 4). 

It was quite a few months, however, before the expeditions 
had returned to England and the photographic plates were care- 
fully measured in the laboratory, taking into consideration all 
possible errors. These errors were what actually worried the ex- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

perts. Around them revolved the discussions in astronomical 
circles, while the lay public was interested, and could only be 
interested, in the question whether the observations had demon- 
strated the "weight of light" or the "curvature of space." The 
latter was even more exciting since hardly anyone could imagine 
anything very definite under the phrase "curvature of space." 

6. Confirmation of the Theory 

On November 7, 1919 London was preparing to ob- 
serve the first anniversary of the armistice. The headlines in the 
London Times were: "The Glorious Dead. Armistice Observ- 
ance. All Trains in the Country Stop." On the same day, how- 
ever, the Times also contained another headline: "Revolution 
in Science. Newtonian Ideas Overthrown." It referred to the 
session of the Royal Society on November 6, at which the results 
of the solar-eclipse expedition were officially announced. 

The Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society of 
London had convened a combined session for November 6 to 
make the formal announcement that the expeditions that had 
been dispatched by these societies to Brazil and West Africa 
to observe the total solar eclipse had from their observations 
reached the conclusion that the rays of light are deflected in the 
sun's gravitational field and with just the amount predicted by 
Einstein's new theory of gravitation. This remarkable agree- 
ment between a creation of the human mind and the astronom- 
ical observations gave the session a wonderful and exciting at- 
mosphere. We have an eyewitness account of this meeting by 
one of the most highly regarded philosophers of our time, Al- 
fred North Whitehead. As a mathematician, logician, philoso- 
pher, and a man endowed with a fine historical and religious 
sense, he was better suited to experience the uniqueness of this 
hour than most scientists. 

"It was my good fortune," said Whitehead, "to be present at the 
meeting of the Royal Society in London when the Astronomer Royal 
for England announced that the photographic plates of the famous 
eclipse, as measured by his colleagues in Greenwich Observatory, had 
verified the prediction of Einstein that rays of light are bent as they 
pass in the neighbourhood of the sun. The whole atmosphere of tense 
interest was exactly that of the Greek drama. We were the chorus 
commentating on the decree of destiny as disclosed in the develop- 






- 2 


f / 





1 1 


1 1 1 f 1 


1 1 



The observations of the British eclipse expedition of 1919 were repeated with 
refined methods by an American expedition in 1922 at Wallal (Western Aus- 
tralia) organized by the Lick Observatory, University of California. FIG. 3 
shows the original photo of the eclipsed sun, its corona and the brightest stars in 
the sun's vicinity. The images of the stars are encircled. FIG. 4 shows the ob- 
served deflection of the stars in the gravitational field of the sun. The arrows 

Einstein and Charles Proteus Steinmetz 

The General Theory of Relativity 

ment of a supreme incident. There was dramatic quality in the very 
staging the traditional ceremonial, and in the background the 
picture of Newton to remind us that the greatest of scientific general- 
izations was now, after more than two centuries, to receive its first 
modification. Nor was the personal interest wanting; a great adven- 
ture in thought had at length come safe to shore. 

"The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in 
the remorseless working of things. . . . This remorseless inevitable- 
ness is what pervades scientific thought. The laws of physics are the 
decrees of fate." 

At this time the president of the Royal Society was Sir J. J. 
Thomson, himself a great research physicist. He opened the 
.session with an address in which he celebrated Einstein's theory 
as "one of the greatest achievements in the history of human 
thought" Continuing, he said: "It is not the discovery of an 
outlying island but of a whole continent of new scientific ideas. 
It is the greatest discovery in connection with gravitation since 
Newton enunciated his principles." 

Then the Astronomer Royal reported in a few words that the 
observations of the two expeditions gave the value 1.64 seconds 
of an arc for the deflection of light, as compared with the value 
1.75 seconds predicted by Einstein. "It is concluded/' he an- 
nounced briefly and dispassionately, "that the sun's gravitational 
field gives the deflection predicted by Einstein's generalized 
theory of relativity." 

Sir Oliver Lodge, the famous physicist, who is widely known 
as an exponent of extra-sensory perception and other "parapsy- 
chological" phenomena, was always a convinced adherent of 
the existence of an "ether" that filled all space, and therefore 
hoped that the observations would decide against Einstein's 
theory. Nevertheless, after the session he said: "It was a dramatic 

The scientists of the Royal Society were now ready to recog- 
nize that a direct observation of nature had corroborated the 
theory of the "curvature of space" and the invalidity of Euclid- 
ean geometry in gravitational field. Nevertheless, it was omi- 
nous of coming developments that during the formal session the 
president of the Royal Society himself said: "I have to confess 
that no one has yet succeeded in stating in clear language what 
the theory of Einstein really is." He persisted in his assertion 
that many scientists were themselves forced to admit their in- 
ability to express simply the actual meaning of Einstein's theory. 
It really meant that they were unable to grasp the meaning of 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

the theory itself; all they could understand were its conse- 
quences within their special field. This situation subsequently 
contributed a good deal to the confusion of the lay public re- 
garding Einstein's theory. 

7. Attitude of the Public 

The significance of the new theory was soon appre- 
ciated by men who were themselves creatively active in the de- 
velopment of science, but many of the so-called "educated" 
people were annoyed that the traditional knowledge acquired 
with great effort in the schools had been overthrown. Since such 
people were themselves convinced of their lack of understand- 
ing of astronomy, mathematics,, and physics, they attacked the 
new theory in the fields of philosophy and politics, in which 
they felt themselves qualified. 

Thus an editorial writer in a reputable American newspaper 
wrote of the session of the Royal Society described above: "These 
gentlemen may be great astronomers, but they are sad logicians. 
Critical laymen have already objected that scientists who pro- 
claim that space comes to an end somewhere are under some 
obligation to tell what lies behind it." 

We recall that the statement: "Space is finite" has nothing to 
do with an "end" of space. It means rather that light rays travel- 
ing through the world space return along a closed curve to their 
origin. The editorial writers of daily newspapers like to repre- 
sent the standpoint of the "man in the street," who is more often 
influenced by a medieval philosophical tradition than by the 
progress of science. 

The editorial continues: 

"This fails to explain why our astronomers appear to think that 
logic and ontology depend on the shifting views of astronomers. 
Speculative thought was highly advanced long before astronomy. A 
sense of proportion ought to be useful to mathematicians and physi- 
cists, but it is to be feared that British astronomers have regarded 
their own field as of somewhat greater consequence than it really is." 

The same tendency to play off common sense that is, in 
this case, the knowledge acquired in elementary schools 
against the progress of science is also evident in another editorial 
that appeared in the same reputable paper about this time: 


The General Theory of Relativity 

"It would take the president of at least two Royal Societies to give 
plausibility or even thinkability to the declaration that as light has 
weight space has limits. It just doesn't, by definition, and that's the 
end of that for common folks, however it may be for higher 

Since in the opinion of the man in the street the two Royal 
Societies were affected by delusions which made them in- 
capable of understanding things that were clear to anyone with 
an average school education, he began to inquire why such a 
thing had happened. An explanation was soon found, which, 
was very illuminating for the man in the street. 

One week after the famous London meeting, a professor of 
celestial mechanics at Columbia University, New York, wrote: 

"For some years past the entire world has been in a state of unrest, 
mental as well as physical. It may well be that the war, the Bolshevist 
uprising, are the visible objects of some deep mental disturbance. This 
unrest is evidenced by the desire to throw aside the well-tested meth- 
ods of government in favor of radical and untried experiments. This 
same spirit of unrest has invaded science. There are many who would 
have us throw aside the well-tested theories upon which have been 
built the entire structure of modern scientific and mechanical develop- 
ment in favor of methodological speculation and phantastic dreams 
about the Universe." 

The writer then pointed out that the situation was analogous 
to the period of the French Revolution, when as a result of 
similar revolutionary mental diseases doubts were expressed 
concerning the Newtonian theory, though these objections later 
proved to be incorrect. 

While various individuals were vexed by these innovations 
which disturbed their pride in their education, others received 
the matter in a more friendly manner. Einstein's predictions of 
the stellar shifts had shown, so these men thought, that physical 
phenomena could be predicted by means of pure thought, by 
pure mathematical speculation about the geometry of universal 
space. The view of the "wicked" empiricists and materialists 
that all science rests on experience, a view that caused so many 
conflicts with religion and ethics, had now been dropped by sci- 
ence itself. In an editorial dealing with the session of the Rqyal 
Society the London Times said: "Observational science has in 
fact led back to the purest subjective idealism." And "idealism" 
for the educated Englishman who received his education from 
his school, his church, and the Times was the diametrical op- 
posite of "materialistic" Bolshevism. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

The psychological situation in Europe at this time increased 
the interest of the general public in Einstein's theory. English 
newspapers tried to efface every connection between Germany 
and the man whom they were honoring. Einstein himself was 
averse to any tactics of this kind, not because he placed any 
value in being regarded as a representative of German science, 
but because he hated every manifestation of narrow-minded 
nationalism. He also believed that he could advance the cause of 
international conciliation if he utilized his fame for this pur- 
pose. When the Times requested him to describe the results of 
his theory for the London public, he did so on November 28 
and used this opportunity to express his opinion in a friendly, 
humorous way. He wrote: 

"The description of me and my circumstances in the Times shows 
an amusing flare of imagination oa the part of the writer. By an 
application o the theory of relativity to the taste of the reader, today 
in Germany I am called a German man of science and in England 
I am represented as a Swiss Jew. If I come to be regarded as a 'bete 
noire' the description will be reversed, and I shall become a Swiss Jew 
for the German and a German for the English." 

At that time Einstein did not anticipate how soon this joke 
would come true. The editor of the Times was slightly annoyed 
by the characterization of the way in which regard was taken of 
the prejudice of the middle-class British, and likewise answered 
in a semi-humorous vein: "We concede him his little joke. But 
we note that in accordance with the general tenor of his theory 
Dr. Einstein does not supply any absolute description of him- 
self." The Times was also somewhat uneasy over the fact that 
Einstein did not have any feeling of belonging completely to 
a definite nation or race. 

In Germany itself the news of the events in London acted 
like a spark that caused the explosion of pent-up emotion. It was 
a double satisfaction. The achievement of a scientist from a de- 
feated and humiliated country had been recognized by the 
proudest of the victor nations. Furthermore, the discovery was 
not based on any collection of empirical researches but arose 
rather from a creative imagination which by its power had 
guessed the secret of the universe as it actually is, and the cor- 
rectness of the solution of the puzzle had been confirmed by 
the precise astronomical observations of the cool-headed Eng- 

The situation contained still another peculiarity in that the 


The General Theory of Relativity 

discoverer was a descendant of the Jewish people who had often 
been insulted and slighted by the defeated nation. The mem- 
bers of the Jewish community had often been compelled to hear 
and to read that while their race possessed a certain craftiness 
in business pursuits, in science it could only repeat and illumi- 
nate the work of others, and that truly creative talents were 
denied them. That this unique, ancient people had again pro- 
duced a leader in the intellectual world not only seemed excit- 
ing for the Jews themselves, but also was a kind of consolation 
and stimulus for all the vanquished and humiliated people of 
the world. 

A Russian observer gave this description of the remarkable 
psychological situation in defeated Germany at that time: 

"With the growing social misery there appeared among the intel- 
lectuals pessimistic currents of thought, ideas about the decline of 
Western culture, and, with the violence of a hurricane, religious move- 
ments. The extent of these movements must seem remarkable even 
to one who is acquainted with German intellectual life. The number 
of independent religious groups in Germany grew endless. World 
War invalids, merchants, officers, students, artists, all were seized by 
the desire to create a metaphysical basis for their view of the world." 

This flight from tragic reality into a dream world also in- 
creased the enthusiasm for Einstein's theory, which occupied a 
special place because it appeared to the public that here a por- 
tion of the reality of the universe had been discovered by dreams. 

In Soviet Russia people at this time were in the process of 
constructing a new social order on principles that were con- 
sciously opposed to the pessimistic ideas of the "declining" West. 
They renounced all idealistic dreams or at least believed that 
they were doing so. They wanted to dissociate themselves as 
completely as possible from the attitudes prevalent both in the 
defeated and in the victorious countries. Everywhere they looked 
for signs of "decline " It was thought that such symptoms like- 
wise evidenced themselves in the development of physical sci- 
ence. As early as 1922 A. Maximov, a leading exponent of Soviet 
Russian political philosophy who occupied himself especially 
with the physical sciences, wrote in the official philosophical 
journal of Soviet Russia in conjunction with the above descrip- 
tion of German life; 

"This idealistic atmosphere has surrounded and still surrounds the 
relativity theory. It is only natural, therefore, that the announcement 
of 'general relativity' by Einstein was received with delight by the 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

bourgeois intelligentsia. The impossibility within the limits of bour- 
geois society for the intellectuals to withdraw from these influences 
led to the circumstance that the relativity principle served exclusively 
religious and metaphysical tendencies." 

Here we note something of the feeling against Einstein that 
was to develop in some groups of the Soviet Union. 

In this connection, however, it should not be forgotten that 
at the same time in Germany opinions were expressed char- 
acterizing Einstein's theory as "Bolshevism in physics/' similar 
to those of the aforementioned American scientist. The rejection 
of Einstein's theories by some prominent Soviet spokesmen did 
nothing to change these opinions. And since the Bolsheviks and 
the Jews were commonly regarded as somehow related, we are 
not surprised to find that the relativity theory soon began to be re- 
garded as "Jewish" an d capable of harming the German people. 
This hostile attitude toward Einstein emanated in Germany 
from those circles which ascribed the loss of the war to the "stab 
in the back" and not to the failure of the ruling classes. 

For Einstein himself this intrusion of politics and nationalism 
into the judgment of his theories was completely astonishing 
indeed, hardly comprehensible. For a long time he had hardly 
paid any attention to these things and had not even noticed 
many such attacks. But gradually complete absorption in the 
regularities of the universe began to be difficult for him. More 
and more the anarchy of the human world pushed into the 
foreground. With brutal force it slowly but surely laid claim 
to a greater or lesser part of his intellectual energy. 



i. Einstein's Political Attitude 

With the intense public interest aroused by the con- 
firmation of his theory, Einstein ceased to be a man in whom 
only scientists were interested. Like a famous statesman, a vic- 
torious general, or a popular actor, he became a public figure. 
Einstein realized that the great fame that he had acquired placed 
a great responsibility upon him. He considered that it would 
be egoistic and conceited if he simply accepted the fact of his 
recognition and continued to work on his researches. He saw 
that the world was full of suffering, and he thought he knew 
some causes. He also saw that there were many people who 
pointed out these causes, but were not heeded because they were 
not prominent figures. Einstein realized that he himself was now 
a person whom the world listened, and consequently he felt 
it his duty to call attention to those sore spots and so help eradi- 
cate them. He did not think of working out a definite pro- 
gram, however, he did not feel within himself the calling to 
become a political, social, or religious reformer. He knew no 
more about such things than any other educated person. The 
advantage he possessed was that he could command public at- 
tention, and he was a man who was not afraid, if necessary, to 
stake his great reputation. 

It was always clear to him that anyone venturing to express 
his opinion about political or social questions must emerge from 
the cloistered halls of science into the turmoil of the market 
place, and he must expect to be opposed with all the weapons 
common to the market place. Einstein accepted this situation 
as self-evident and included in the bargain. He also realized that 
many of his political opponents would also become his scientific 

In the years immediately following the World War it was 
only natural that the main problem of all political reformers was 
the prevention of another such catastrophe. The obvious means 
to this goal were the cultivation of international conciliation, 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

struggle against economic need, for disarmament, and the em- 
phatic rejection of all attempts to cultivate the militaristic spirit. 
The surest and indeed an infallible method of obtaining the 
desired end seemed to be the refusal of military service by the 
individual, the organization of "conscientious objectors" on a 
large scale. All these ideas appeared as obvious to Einstein as 
they did to so many others. Only he had more courage and 
more opportunity than others to advocate them. Einstein did not 
have the self-complacency with which scholars, especially in 
Germany, liked to retire into the ivory tower of science. But the 
means toward the goal appeared to him at that time, as to many 
thousands, much simpler and more certain than was later found 
to be the case. 

Einstein's political position, like that of all the intellectuals in 
the world, changed during the twenty years of armistice be- 
tween the two World Wars, but he was never a member of 
any political party. Parties made use of his authority where they 
could do so, but he was never active in any group. This was due 
fundamentally to the fact that Einstein was never really inter- 
ested in politics. 

Only to very superficial judges does Einstein appear to be 
a genius so buried in his researches that he finds all his happiness 
in them without being influenced by the outside world. There 
are many more unresolved contradictions in Einstein's character 
than one would believe at first glance, and these, as I have men- 
tioned already, are due to the contrast between his intense so- 
cial consciousness on the one hand and the aversion to entering 
into too intimate relations with his fellow men on the other. 

This trait manifests itself above all in his attitude toward po- 
litical groups, with which he has co-operated at times because 
he sympathized with some of their aims. There were always 
moments when it was extremely vexatious for him to be forced 
into actions and expressions of which he did not approve, and 
the moment always recurred when he developed antipathies to 
the representatives of the groups with which he sympathized. 
Moreover, he did not like to claim any special role for himself 
and so he sometimes participated in things that were actually 
not very much to his liking. When something of this sort hap- 
pened, naturally he did not become any fonder of the people 
who had caused him to do so. As a result he impressed many 
people as a vacillatory supporter. He always stood first for what 
seemed valuable to him, but he was not ready to let himself be 


Einstein as a Public Figure 

influenced too much by party stereotypes and slogans. This was 
his attitude in his co-operation with the Zionists, pacifists, and 

Einstein realized very well that everything has several aspects 
and that by supporting a good cause one must often help one 
that is less worthy. Many people who are essentially hypocrites 
seize upon such situations and refuse to participate in any good 
cause because of "moral scruples." Such behavior was not Ein- 
stein's way of acting. If the basic cause was good he was occa- 
sionally ready to take into the bargain a less worthy, secondary 
tendency. He was much too realistic and critical a thinker to be- 
lieve that any movement conducted by human beings to attain 
human aims could be perfect. 

He helped the Zionist movement, for instance, because he be- 
lieved that it was of value in creating a feeling of self-respect 
among the Jews as a group and in providing a refuge for home- 
less Jews. He was well aware, however, that at the same time he 
was helping occasionally the development of nationalism and 
religious orthodoxy, both of which he disliked. He saw that at 
present no other instrument than a kind of nationalism was 
available to produce a feeling of self-respect in the rank and file 
of the Jewish community. 

There were times, however, when the prospect of having his 
remarks interpreted falsely appeared so unpleasant to Einstein 
that he did not permit himself to be placed in a position where 
such a situation could develop. Einstein received repeated in- 
vitations to visit and lecture in Soviet Russia, especially during 
the early years of the development of her science, but he de- 
clined. Einstein realized that any friendly remark he might 
make to the country would be interpreted by the outside world 
as a sign that he was a Communist, and any critical remark 
would be taken by the Communists as a part of a capitalistic 
crusade against Russia. 

2. Anti-Semitism in Postwar Germany 

After the war, when Germany's defeat led to a collapse 
of the rule of the generals and the junkers, who had generally 
been regarded as the source of all prejudice, many people 
thought that the period of discrimination against the Jews was 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

now past. But actually the loss of power aroused a deep-seatea 
feeling of anger in these classes. A human being is inconsolable 
over a catastrophe only so long as he believes its cause was due 
to his own inferiority. Consequently he tries to put the blame 
on someone else. Thus the supporters of the overthrown rulers 
spread the idea that the defeat had been caused not by military 
weakness, but by an internal revolt led by the Jews. The spread 
of this view caused a feeling of extreme hatred against the Jews 
in Germany. Such sentiments were very widespread even among 
the educated class, and they were all the more dangerous for the 
Jews because they were completely irrational. The Jews could 
not refute them by any arguments or escape the enmity by any 
change in their conduct. 

Many of the Jews in Germany, however, did not understand 
this situation, and they made efforts to divert attention from 
themselves through various kinds of mimicry. In the mildest 
form, they tried to shift the blame for the defeat by putting it 
on the lack of patriotism among the Socialists. Many went even 
further, emphasized a division among the Jews, and accused the 
"bad" group. The Jews who had been long resident in Germany 
ascribed all the inferior characteristics to the Jews who had 
immigrated from eastern Europe. Among them were included, 
depending on preference and momentary need, Jews from Po- 
land, Russia, Rumania, Hungary, and sometimes even of Aus- 
tria. When Hitler, who, as is well known, came from Austria, 
began his persecutions of the Jews, a Jewish professor at a Ger- 
man university said: "One cannot blame Hitler for his views 
about the Jews. He comes from Austria and he is right as far 
as the Jews there are concerned. If he had known the German 
Jews well, he would never have acquired such a poor opinion 
of us." Such statements characterize in drastic fashion the feel- 
ing of some German Jews. This feeling was so bitterly resented 
by the eastern Jews that when Hitler began to persecute the 
German Jews, the reaction was not a united front of all Jews 
but often one regional group tried to put the blame for Hitler 
on other Jewish groups. 

This lack of self-respect in the behavior of some German Jews 
made a mortifying impression on Einstein. Until then he had 
taken little interest in the condition of the Jews and had hardly 
realized the grave problems in their situation, but now he de- 
veloped a deep sympathy for their position. Although Einstein 
had a certain aversion to Jewish orthodoxy, he looked upon the 
Jewish community as a group that was the bearer of a very valu- 


Einstein as a Public Figure 

able tradition and that regarded intellectual values very highly. 
Hence, he saw with bitter feeling the Jewish community not 
only attacked by external enemies but also disintegrating in- 
wardly. Einstein saw the Jews move deeper and deeper into a 
distorted psychological situation that could only produce a per- 
verted mentality. 

This profound sympathy aroused in him an ever increasing 
feeling of responsibility. As his fame grew, he gave the entire 
Jewish community the certainty that it was capable of producing 
a man with the creative intellectual power to formulate a theory 
of the universe recognized by the whole world as one of the 
greatest achievements of our time. Here was a refutation of the 
widespread opinion that truly creative intellectual powers are re- 
stricted to the Nordic-Aryan race. 

3. The Zionist Movement 

During the World War, when the British government 
declared its willingness to support the development of a national 
home for the Jews in Palestine, the Zionist movement experi- 
enced a powerful revival in all countries. Its goal was to establish 
a Jewish state in the ancient historical homeland of the Jews in 
order to give the Jews of the entire world a national and cul- 
tural center. In the British promise they saw the first step toward 
this goal. It was hoped that the co-operation of all the Jews in 
the world would enable them to throw off the humiliating feel- 
ing that they alone among all people had no national home 
and were everywhere tolerated only as guests. 

From the beginning Einstein had various doubts about the 
Zionist aims. He was not sympathetic to the strong nationalistic 
emphasis, and he saw no advantage in substituting a Jewish for 
German nationalism. He also realized the difficulties inherent 
in the Palestine plan. He thought the country was too small to 
receive all the Jewish immigrants who might want to settle in 
a national home, and he foresaw the clash between Jewish and 
Arab nationalism. Zionists often have tried to minimize the mag- 
nitude of these problems, but Einstein considered this due to 
wishful thinking. 

But in spite of all these doubts and scruples, Einstein saw 
many reasons in favor of Zionism. He saw in it the only active 
movement among the Jews that appeared capable of arousing 


Einstein; His Life and Times 

in them the sense of dignity, the absence of which he deplored so 
much. He did not much care to have this educational process 
put into effect by an emphasis on nationalism, yet he felt that 
the Jewish psyche, and in particular that of the German Jews, 
was in such a pathological state that he recommended every 
educational means that tended to alleviate and remedy this 

He therefore decided in 1921 to appear publicly as a sup- 
porter of Zionism. He was well aware that this action would 
produce an astounding impression within German Jewry, since 
almost all the Jews in Germany who were active in public life 
as scholars and writers considered the Zionist movement as a 
mortal enemy of the development that they sought the grad- 
ual complete assimilation of the Jews among their fellow citi- 
zens. When a man like Einstein, certainly the greatest of the 
Jewish scientists in Germany and a man of world reputation, 
stepped forth in this manner and thwarted their efforts, it was 
obvious that by many German Jews his action would be re- 
garded as a "stab in the back." But Einstein was not the man 
to be afraid of any such reaction. He even felt that this antag- 
onism was already the beginning of the educational process at 
which he was aiming. Also, since Einstein had taken upon him- 
self to say so much that other people did not dare express, self- 
expression became easier and inhibitions were abated. 

Thenceforth Einstein has been regarded by many people as 
a "black sheep" among the German scholars of Jewish origin. 
Attempts were made to explain his conduct on the basis of all 
sorts of causes, such as his misunderstanding of the German 
character, his wife, the propaganda of skillful journalists, or 
even his being, allegedly, a "Russian draft-dodger." They did 
not realize that Einstein was utilizing the credit he had ob- 
tained through his scientific achievements to educate the Jew- 
ish community. 

Einstein's participation in the work of the Zionists, how- 
ever, was due not only to the primary aim of this movement, 
but as well to a secondary plan that struck a responsive chord in 
his innermost being. This was the plan to establish a Jewish 
university in Jerusalem. 

It had always been very painful for Einstein to see many 
Jewish youths who wished to acquire a higher education pre- 
vented from doing so on account of the discrimination against 
them. Most universities in eastern Europe were averse to ad- 
mitting a large number of Jewish students. In central Europe, 


Einstein as a Public Figure 

again, this attitude prevailed against the admission of Jewish 
students barred from the eastern universities. To Einstein it ap- 
peared as a special form of brutality indeed, a paradoxical 
brutality that just these people who had always had a special 
respect and love for intellectual pursuits should be thwarted in 
their ambitions. Although the Jewish students were often among 
the most interested and industrious, every admission of an East- 
ern Jew to a Germanic university was regarded as a special act 
of tolerance. Thus even the few fortunate ones who were ad- 
mitted were not fully regarded by the others as fellow students 
and friends, and they never felt really at ease. The same preju- 
dice was also felt by quite a few Jewish teachers. For this rea- 
son Einstein felt that it was necessary to found a university that 
would belong to the Jews and where students and professors 
would be free of the tension that arises through constant contact 
with an unfriendly environment. 

It was through this plan for a university that Einstein came 
into contact with Chaim Weizmann, the recognized leader of 
the Zionist movement. Like Einstein, Weizmann was a scientist, 
but he was more interested in the application of science to tech- 
nical problems. He was a professor of chemistry at the Univers- 
ity of Manchester in England, and his work in the war research 
had been of great service to the British government during the 
World War. As a result he had become associated with influential 
English circles and had thus been able to propagate the Zionist 
plan. Einstein certainly intended to collaborate with the party 
led by Weizmann for a definite purpose, and the plan for the 
establishment of a university in Jerusalem rendered this col- 
laboration easier. Weizmann himself characterized the aims of 
the university in a far-sighted way that Einstein must also have 
found sympathetic. He said: "The Hebrew University should 
further self-expression and shall play a part as interpreter be- 
tween the Eastern and Western world." 

4. Einstein as a Pacifist 

From his childhood Einstein had been terribly de- 
pressed at the sight of people being trained to become autom- 
atons, whether they were soldiers marching through the streets 
or students learning Latin at the gymnasium. Aversion to me- 
chanical drill was combined in him with an extreme abhorrence 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

of all violence, and he saw in war the culmination of all that was 
hateful mechanized brutality. 

Einstein placed this aversion above and apart from any po- 
litical conviction. On one occasion, speaking to a group of Amer- 
icans who visited him in Berlin in 1920, he said: 

"My pacifism is an instinctive feeling, a feeling that possesses me 
because the murder o men is disgusting. My attitude is not derived 
from any intellectual theory but is based on my deepest antipathy 
to every kind of cruelty and hatred. I might go on to rationalize this 
reaction, but that would really be a posteriori thinking." 

Because Einstein's attitude to war was based on general hu- 
man grounds rather than on political ones, it was very difficult 
for him to work together with institutions that also considered 
themselves to be working for world peace. In 1922 Einstein 
was appointed to the "Commission pour la Cooperation Intellec- 
tuelle" of the League of Nations. The purpose of this body was 
to make intellectuals acquainted with the aims of the League 
and to induce them to use their knowledge and talents for 
the achievement of these aims. The commission never got be- 
yond certain vague beginnings. At first, however, Einstein be- 
lieved that he ought not to refuse to co-operate, and in his letter 
of acceptance he wrote as follows: "Even though I must admit 
that I am not at all clear as to the character of the work to be 
done by the commission, I consider it my duty to obey its sum- 
mons since nobody in these times should refuse assistance to 
efforts toward the realization of international co-operation." 

But after one year Einstein recognized that the League did 
not prevent the use of force by great powers and sought only for 
means to induce weak nations to submit without resistance to 
the demands of the strong ones. 

Consequently he resigned from the commission, giving the 
following reason for his action: "I have become convinced that 
the League possesses neither the strength nor the good will 
necessary to accomplish its task. As a convinced pacifist it does 
not seem well to me to have any relation whatever with the 

In a letter to a pacifistic magazine he presented an even 
sharper formulation of this step: 

"I did so because the activities of the League of Nations had con- 
vinced me that there appeared to be no action, no matter how brutal, 
committed by the present power groups against which the League 
could take a stand. I withdrew because the League of Nations, as it 


Einstein as a Public Figure 

functions at present, not only does not embody the ideal of an inter- 
national organization, but actually discredits such an ideal.*' 

Tlie correctness of his judgment was shown already in the 
fall of that year (1923) when in the conflict between Greece and 
Italy the League endeavored only to make Greece, the weaker 
party, yield. It did not wish to hurt the feelings of Italy, which 
was then celebrating the honeymoon of Fascism. 

Soon, however, Einstein realized that the matter had an- 
other aspect. He noticed that his resignation from the commis- 
sion was greeted with glee by the German nationalist groups. 
Thereupon, as on so many other occasions, he reflected that even 
though one sees many mistakes in a movement, yet it is not right 
to refuse to support it if its essential principle is a good one. 
In 1924 he therefore rejoined the commission. On the occasion 
of the tenth anniversary of the League (1930) he expressed the 
essence of his opinion as follows: "I am rarely enthusiastic about 
what the League has done or has not done, but I am always 
thankful that it exists." He always emphasized, however, that 
without the collaboration of the United States the League would 
never become a factor for international justice. 

Einstein always thought that scientists have a special part to 
play in advancing the cause of international understanding. The 
nature of their work is not restricted by national boundaries as 
is the case, -for instance, with history and economics, and their 
judgments of merit tend to be objective. It is therefore particu- 
larly easy for scientists of different countries to find a common 
ground. As he once put it: 

"The representatives of the natural sciences are inclined, by the 
universal character of the subject dealt with and by the necessity of 
internationally organized co-operation, toward an international men- 
tality predisposing them to favor pacifistic objectives. . . . The tra- 
dition of science as a force in cultural training would open a much 
more comprehensive view before the mind and would be a powerful 
influence because its outlook is world-wide in drawing men a 
little way from senseless nationalism. You cannot drive out nation- 
alism unless you put something in its place. And science gives this 
wide something which men could hang on to." 

Here Einstein also saw a task for the Jewish people. For cen- 
turies the Jews had formed such a small minority among their 
neighbors that they had been unable to defend themselves by 
physical force. They had shown how in the face of physical 
violence it is possible to survive by intellectual means. In an 
address at a Jewish meeting in Berlin in 1929 Einstein said; 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

"Jewry has proved that the intellect is the best weapon in history. 
Oppressed by violence, Jewry has mocked her enemies by rejecting 
war and at the same time has taught peace. ... It is the duty of us 
Jews to put at the disposal of the world our several-thousand-years-old 
sorrowful experience and, true to the ethical traditions of our fore- 
fathers, become soldiers in the fight for peace, united with the noblest 
elements in all cultural and religious circles." 

Einstein's attitude to pacifism must always be kept in mind 
if one wants to understand his political position. As the prob- 
lem of social reorganization became more and more complicated 
and it was no longer certain which groups represented progress 
toward this goal, Einstein refused definitely to link the fight 
against war with the cause of socialism. The American Socialist 
leader Norman Thomas once asked him whether lie did not 
consider the realization of a socialist society a necessary prereq- 
uisite to guarantee general peace. Einstein replied: 

"It is easier to win over people to pacifism than to socialism. Social 
and economic problems have become much more difficult today, and 
it is necessary that men and women reach the point where they believe 
in pacific solutions. Then you can expect them to approach economic 
and political problems in a spirit of co-operation. I would say that we 
should not work for socialism first, but for pacifism." 

Just as Einstein was aware that social problems cannot be 
solved by a simple declaration of faith in socialism, but that very 
complicated and often antithetical interests must be reconciled, 
so he had likewise long been cognizant of the paradox in the 
ideal of democracy. The people should rule, yet freedom can 
never be realized by means of a formula, but only if the system 
is headed by men worthy of the confidence placed in them. 
Democracy necessarily leads to the formation of parties; but 
mechanical party rule often leads in turn to the suppression of 
oppositional groups. Thus he wrote in 1930: 

"My political ideal is democracy. . . . However, well do I know 
that in order to attain any definite goal it is imperative that one person 
should do the thinking and commanding and carry most of the respon- 
sibility. But those who are led should not be driven, and they should 
be allowed to choose their leader. It seems to me that the distinctions 
separating the social classes are false; in the last analysis they rest on 
force. I am convinced that degeneracy follows every autocratic system 
of violence, for violence inevitably attracts moral inferiors. Time has 
proved that illustrious tyrants are succeeded by scoundrels." 

Einstein as a Public Figure 

Einstein never considered the essence of democracy to be the 
observance of certain formal rules; it lay chiefly, rather, in the 
absence of any spirit of violence directed against certain sections 
of the nation. Even before Germany became a dictatorship, he 
had already recognized the shady sides of this system, as well 
as those of the still prevailing formal democracy. He once said: 

"For this reason I have always been passionately opposed to such 
regimes as exist in Russia and Italy today. The thing that has dis- 
credited the European forms of democracy is not the basic theory of 
democracy itself, which some say is at fault, but the instability of our 
political leadership, as well as the impersonal character of party 

At that time Einstein already regarded the American system 
of government as a form of democracy superior to the German 
or even the French republic. It was based not so much on par- 
liamentary deliberations and votes as on the leadership of an 
elected president. "I believe," Einstein told an American journal 
in 1930, "that you in the United States have hit upon the right 
idea. You choose a president for a reasonable length of time 
and give him enough power to acquit himself properly of his 

Similarly, during the discussions over Roosevelt's third term 
Einstein was unable to agree with the view that the number of 
terms to which a president is elected is important for democ- 
racy, because he felt that the spirit in which the president exer- 
cised the powers of his office was much more significant. 

But while the question of democracy or socialism always 
seemed complicated to him and incapable of solution by a 
formula, yet at that time the problem of his attitude to military 
service and war still seemed simple because his aversion was not 
based on any political convictions. 

It is even possible to find statements by Einstein that sound 
"undemocratic" and almost like an espousal of the doctrine of 
elite, as, for instance: "What is truly valuable in our bustle of 
life is not the nation, I should say, but the creative and impres- 
sionable individuality, the personality he who produces the 
noble and sublime while the common herd remains dull in 
thought and insensible in feeling." And he hated all military 
institutions because they cultivated and developed this very herd 

"This subject brings me to the vilest offspring of the herd mind 
the odious militia. The man who enjoys marching in line and file to 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

the strains of music falls below my contempt: he received his great 
brain by mistake, the spinal cord would have been amply sufficient. 
This heroism at command, this senseless violence, this accurate bom- 
bast of patriotism how intensely I despise them! 5 * 

Einstein was not opposed to a dictatorship because it recog- 
nized the existence of an elite, but because it tried to develop 
a herd mind among the majority of the people. 

This goal the avoidance of war and military service 
seemed so desirable that in this case he believed the most primi- 
tive and most radical means to be the most eff ective that is, 
the refusal of the individual to perform military service, as 
practiced by certain religious groups such as the Quakers or 
Jehovah's Witnesses. In 1929, when he was asked what he would 
do in case of a new war, he replied in a magazine: "I would 
unconditionally refuse to do war service, direct or indirect, and 
would try to persuade my friends to take the same stand, re- 
gardless of how the cause of the war should be judged." In 
1931 he placed his reputation and his personal co-operation at 
the disposal of the War Resisters International and issued an 
appeal in which he said: 

"I appeal to all men and women, whether they be 'eminent or 
humble, to declare that they will refuse to give any further assistance 
to war or the preparation of war. I ask them to tell their governments 
this in writing and to register this decision by informing me that 
they have done so. ... I have authorized the establishment of the 
'Einstein War Resisters International Fund/ " 

When I visited the House of Friends in London, the head- 
quarters of the Quakers, I saw the pictures of three men in the 
secretary's office: Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, and Einstein. I 
was rather surprised at this combination and asked the secretary 
what it was that these three persons had in common. Amazed 
at my ignorance, he informed me: "All three are pacifists.'* 

5. Campaigns against Einstein 

The German intellectuals who had blindly followed 
the ruling military class into the first World War were bewil- 
dered when their trust was broken by the loss of the war. The 
professors in the years immediately following the armistice felt 
like sheep without a shepherd. When Einstein ventured forth 


Einstein as a Public Figure 

into this confused atmosphere by entering into public affairs in 
support of Zionism and pacifism, strong opposition began to 
be organized against him. 

For the ardent nationalists., the Jews and the pacifists were 
the scapegoats to be blamed for the defeat in the war by a "stab 
in the back," and any supporter of their movements was the 
object of their violent anger. Even those who agreed with Ein- 
stein's ideas were shocked by his blunt way of speaking in face 
of the opposing sentiment, and he began to be looked upon as 
a kind of enfant terrible. Einstein was not familiar with politi- 
cal machinations and had no interest in them, and so his state- 
ments were considered either childish or cynical With the suc- 
cess of his theory acclaimed by the English solar expedition and 
the rise of his fame, his enemies set out to depreciate this success 
as far as possible. 

There suddenly appeared an organization whose only pur- 
pose was to fight Einstein and his theories. The leader was a 
certain Paul Weyland, whose past, education, and occupation 
were unknown. The organization had at its disposal large sums 
of money of unknown origin. It offered relatively large fees to 
people who would write against Einstein or oppose him at 
meetings. It organized meetings by means of large posters, such 
as were used to announce the greatest virtuosi. 

The people who spoke for and represented this movement 
may be divided into three groups. The first group comprised 
the political agents of the "revolution from the Right." They 
knew absolutely nothing about Einstein and his theories except 
that he was a Jew, a "pacifist," that he was highly regarded in 
England, and that he also seemed to be trying to gain a hold 
on the German public. These people spoke loudest and with the 
greatest assurance. As professional propagandists usually do, 
they accused Einstein and his supporters of making too much 
propaganda. They did not enter into any objective discussions, 
and they intimated in a more or less veiled fashion that the 
spread of Einstein's theory was due to the same conspirators 
who were to blame for the German defeat. Since it is character- 
istic of the mode of thought of this group, I wish to quote 
from an article that appeared in the magazine Der Turmer, a 
literary monthly that was highly regarded in German national- 
istic circles. Under the title "Bolshevistic Physics" Einstein's 
theory is directly related to the political situation. In the opin- 
ion of many, the German defeat was due to the circumstance 
that President Woodrow Wilson had promised the Germans 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

a just peace, and had thus led them to conclude an armistice, 
as they were not compelled to do by the military situation. The 
article continues: 

"Hardly had it become clear to the horrified German people that 
they had been frightfully duped by the lofty politics of Professor 
Wilson and swindled with the aid of the professorial nimbus, when 
a new professorial achievement was again being commended to the 
simple Germans with the greatest enthusiasm and ecstasy as the pin- 
nacle of scientific research. And unfortunately even highly educated 
people fell for this all the more so since Professor Einstein, the 
alleged new Copernicus, numbers university teachers among his ad- 
mirers. Yet, without mincing words, we are dealing here with an 
infamous scientific scandal that fits very appropriately into the picture 
presented by this most tragic of all political periods. In the last analysis 
one cannot blame workers for being taken in by Marx, when German 
professors allow themselves to be misled by Einstein." 

A second group in this movement directed against Einstein 
was composed of several physicists who had acquired a reputa- 
tion in professional circles as a result of precise experiments, 
and who now wondered that someone could become world- 
famous because of the constructions of his creative imagination. 
They lacked the comprehensive vision to realize the necessity 
for such far-reaching generalizations as those of Einstein; on 
the whole they were inclined to see only that honest hard-work- 
ing physicists were being slighted in favor of a frivolous in- 
ventor of fantastic hypotheses. Here there was already some- 
thing of the idea that the ability to observe nature faithfully was 
a characteristic of the "Nordic" race, which Einstein conse- 
quently lacked. 

The third group was composed of philosophers who advo- 
cated certain philosophical systems that were inconsistent with 
the theory of relativity. Or, to put it more precisely, they did 
not understand the exact physical meaning of the relativity 
theory, and so they attributed to it a metaphysical interpretation 
that it actually did not contain. Then they denounced this phi- 
losophy that they themselves had invented. Here, too, there is 
already something of the conception that the Nordic-Aryan phi- 
losopher probes the true profundity of nature itself while other 
races are satisfied with a discussion of how nature may be de- 
scribed from different points of view. 

But since physicists as well as philosophers are often very 
naive or, to put it more plainly, are very thoughtless in matters 
of individual and political psychology, the latter two groups 

1 60 

Einstein as a Public Figure 

were frequently not even aware that they were acting in the 
service of a specific political propaganda. 

When Paul Weyland organized Ms first meeting in the Berlin 
Philharmonic, he even made great efforts to secure speakers 
who were of Jewish origin so as to create a kind of smoke 
screen. At this first meeting Weyland, whose speech was more 
political than scientific, was followed by E. Gehrcke, a com- 
petent experimental physicist of Berlin, who criticized the theory 
from the point of view of a man who, while making no mis- 
takes in his experiments, simply lacks the acute understanding 
and flight of imagination to pass from individual facts to a 
synthesis. Such people are usually ready to accept old hypotheses 
because through habit they have forgotten that they are not facts, 
but they like to stamp new theories as "absurd 51 and "opposed 
to the spirit of empirical science." An invitation had also been 
extended to a representative of philosophy who was to prove 
that Einstein's theory was not "truth," but only a "fiction." He 
was of Jewish descent and was intended to be the climax of 
the meeting. Despite his political innocence and urgent tele- 
grams, he declined at the last moment because some friends had 
explained the purpose of the meeting to him. As a result the 
first attack took place without the blessing of philosophy. 

Einstein attended this meeting as a spectator and even ap- 
plauded the attacks in a friendly spirit. He always liked to re- 
gard events in the world around him as if he were a spectator 
in a theater. The meetings of this group were just as amusing 
as the sessions of the university faculty in Prague, or of the 
Prussian Academy of Science. 

Other meetings of this group took place, and in this year the 
"Einstein case" became a constant subject of discussion in the 
press. Einstein was besieged with requests to express publicly 
his opinion of these attacks. But it was repugnant to him to act as 
if he thought that he was dealing with scientific discussions. He 
had no desire to discuss publicly questions that for most people 
were incomprehensible and that played no part whatsoever in 
these meetings. Finally, in order to terminate the entire affair, 
he wrote in a Berlin newspaper that it would be senseless to 
answer in a scientific manner arguments that were not meant 
scientifically. The public would not be able to judge who was 
right. Therefore he said simply: "If I were a German nationalist 
with or without a swastika, instead of being a Jew with liberal, 
international opinions, then . . " This was more understand- 
able to everyone than scientific arguments would have been, 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Now Einstein's opponents were more furious than ever and 
asserted that Einstein was turning a scientific discussion into a 
political one. Actually, he had once again been the enfant ter- 
rible and had simply called the thing by its right name. Even 
many of his friends would have preferred it had he acted as if 
he did not understand the motives of his opponents. 

At this time he began to feel uneasy in Berlin and there was 
a great deal of talk that he would leave Germany. He was also 
offered a professorship at the Dutch University of Leiden. When 
he was asked whether he actually wanted to leave Berlin, he 
said: "Would such a decision be so amazing? My situation is like 
that of a man who is lying in a beautiful bed, where he is being 
tortured by bedbugs. Nevertheless, let us wait and see things 

The movement against Einstein acquired a certain respecta- 
bility as soon as a physicist who was generally regarded as an 
outstanding member of his profession put himself at its head. I 
have already spoken of Philipp Lenard on several occasions. In 
1905 Einstein had based his new conception of light on the ob- 
servations of Lenard. For these and other experiments carried 
out with the greatest ingenuity, Lenard had received the Nobel 
prize. He was less skilled, however, in deriving general laws 
from his observations. When he tried to do so, he involved him- 
self in such complicated hypotheses that they could not con- 
tribute to any clarification. He therefore achieved no recogni- 
tion as a theoretician. 

He was one of the physicists who during the World War had 
become extreme nationalists and particularly embittered en- 
emies of England. He regarded the defeat, which came quite 
unexpectedly for him as well as for the others who held the 
same political views, as the work of international powers: 
namely, the Socialists and pacifists. He was one of those who 
began to accuse the Jews of being the actual wire-pullers in the 
background. Lenard soon joined the Hitler groups and was a 
very old member of the National Socialist Party. 

He was astonished that Einstein had such great success after 
the war. In the first place, this man was not an experimenter; 
secondly, he was the inventor of an "absurd" theory that con- 
tradicted sound common sense as embodied in mechanistic phys- 
ics; and thirdly, in addition to all this he was a Jew and a paci- 
fist. For Lenard this was more than he could stand, and he put 
his reputation and prestige as a physicist at the service of Ein- 
stein's opponents. In him were united the motives of all three 


Einstein as a Public Figure 

groups that opposed Einstein: the agents of the revolution from 
the Right, the pure "empiricists/' and the advocates of a certain 

Lenard's nationalistic fanaticism was revealed by many inci- 
dents. On one occasion the well-known Russian physicist A. F. 
Joffe was traveling through Germany after the war in order to 
resume contact with German colleagues. He went to Heidel- 
berg and wanted to visit Lenard to discuss scientific subjects 
with him. He requested the porter at the institute to announce 
him to Lenard. The porter returned and said to Joffe: "Herr 
Geheimrat Lenard wishes me to say that he has something more 
important to do than to converse with the enemies of his fa- 

As is well known throughout the entire world the unit of 
intensity of an electrical current is called an ampere, after the 
French physicist and mathematician Andre M. Ampere. Lenard, 
however, ordered that in his laboratory the electrical unit must 
change its French name and assume the name of a German 
physicist, Weber. This change was made on all the instruments 
in the Heidelberg laboratory. 

Every year in September there was a meeting of German- 
speaking scientists and teachers of sciences. Usually several thou- 
sand persons came together. In 1920 this meeting was to take 
place at the well-known spa Bad Nauheim. Several papers deal- 
ing with the relativity theory were also on the program. Lenard 
decided to take this opportunity to attack Einstein's theories 
before the assembled scientists and to demonstrate their ab- 

This became generally known and the session was awaited 
as if it were a sensational and decisive meeting of a parliament. 
Max Planck presided. This great scientist and distinguished 
man detested any kind of sensation. He endeavored to arrange 
the session in such a way so as to keep the debate on the level 
on which scientists usually discuss matters and to prevent non- 
scientific points of view from being brought into it. He ar- 
ranged it so that the greatest part of the available time was 
filled with papers that were purely mathematical and techni- 
cal. Not much time remained for Lenard's attack and the debate 
that would ensue. The entire arrangement was made to prevent 
any dramatic effects. 

Questions of principle were not touched upon in the long re- 
ports, which were full of mathematical formulae. Then Lenard 
took the floor for a short talk in which he attacked Einstein's 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

theory, but without Introducing any emotional coloring. His 
argument was neither that the theory was inconsistent with ex- 
perimental results, nor that it contained logical contradictions, 
but actually only that it was incompatible with the manner in 
which ordinary "common sense" conceived things. Fundamen- 
tally it was only a criticism of a language that was not that of 
mechanistic physics. 

Einstein replied very briefly and then two others spoke still 
more briefly for and against Einstein. With this the session came 
to an end. Planck was able to heave a sigh of relief that the meet- 
ing had passed without any major conflict. The armed police- 
men who had watched the building were withdrawn. Planck 
was in such good humor that he ended the session with one of 
the trivial jokes that have been current among non-physicists: 
"Since the relativity theory unfortunately has not yet made it 
possible to extend the absolute time interval that is available for 
the meeting, our session must be adjourned." 

To a certain degree the lack of understanding of the philo- 
sophical significance of Einstein's theory among most profes- 
sional physicists stood in the way of a real debate in which it 
would have been possible to explain the true content of the 
theory to its well-meaning opponents. As a result, however, the 
impression was created that while the Einstein theory might 
have a meaning for mathematicians, yet for a more philosophi- 
cally thinking mind it contained various absurdities. 

Thus Lenard himself received the impression that not enough 
attention was paid to his arguments, and the mass of physicists 
and mathematicians had no opportunity to take part in a truly 
fundamental discussion on a grand scale. For the moment the 
physicists probably felt relieved that nothing worse had hap- 
pened; nevertheless, the opportunity had been permitted to pass 
without organizing a real explanation for the great mass of 
scientists and educated persons. 

The opposition of Lenard and his supporters to Einstein's 
theory was checked by one fact. Even though the foundations 
of the theory could be characterized as "absurd" and "mud- 
dled/' yet it was undeniable that inferences could be drawn 
from this "absurd" theory that every scientist had to admit were 
usable and important Even the most vigorous opponent, if he 
was a physicist or chemist, had to reckon with the formula that 
represented the relation between mass and energy. If the energy 
E is given off, this is equivalent to a loss of mass E/c* f where c 
is the velocity of light (see Chapter III). Even the most zealous 


t Einstein as a Public Figure 

adherent of the "revolution from the Right" had to use this 
formula E = me 2 if he wanted to penetrate the nucleus of the 
atom. Consequently Lenard and his group endeavored to sepa- 
rate this law from its connection with Einstein's theory and to 
prove that it had already been known before Einstein, having 
been advanced by a physicist of whose racial origin and senti- 
ments they approved. 

In the writings of those who want to avoid the name of Ein- 
stein at any price, the law of the transformation of mass into 
energy is often to be found as the "principle of HasenohrL" It 
is interesting, perhaps, for an understanding of the entire milieu 
in which Einstein worked to describe how this deliberate re- 
moval of Einstein's name occurred. 

It had long been known that light falling on a surface exerts 
a pressure on it as if particles were being hurled against the sur- 
face. In 1904 the Austrian physicist Hasenohrl had concluded 
from this knowledge: if light radiation is enclosed in a vessel, 
it will exert a pressure on the walls. Even if the vessel itself does 
not have any material mass, yet because of the pressure of the 
enclosed radiation it would under the impact of a force behave 
like a body with material mass. And this "apparent" mass is 
proportional to the enclosed energy. When the vessel radiates 
energy E the "apparent" mass m will decrease, according to 
E = mc 2 . 

This principle is obviously a special case of Einstein's law. If 
radiation is already contained in a body, its mass will decrease 
when the radiation is given off. Einstein's law, however, is much 
more general. He says that the mass of a body, no matter what 
its nature, decreases if the body loses energy in any manner 

Lenard and his group, however, were seeking a substitute for 
the name Einstein. There were several external factors that fa- 
vored the choice of Hasenohrl's name. During the World War 
he had fought in the Austrian army that is, on Germany's 
side and was killed in battle at the age of forty. He thus ap- 
peared to be an ideal figure in the view of Einstein's enemies, a 
hero and model for German youth who was the very antithesis 
of the abstract speculator and international pacifist Einstein. 
Actually, Hasenohrl was a honest and competent scientist and a 
sincere admirer of Einstein. 

The legend originated with Lenard's book Great Men of 
Science. The author presented a series of biographies of great 
men, such as Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Faraday, and others, 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

and he concluded with one of Hasenohrl. In order to link 
him with the preceding heroes Lenard said of him: "He loved 
music and his violin as Galileo his lute: he was very fond of his 
family and as extremely modest as Kepler." Further on he 
says about HasenohrPs conclusions: "The applications of this 
idea have already progressed very far today, although almost 
entirely in the names of other people." "Other people" appar- 
ently means Einstein. 




i. Holland 

The vicious attacks on Einstein resulted in arousing 
interest in Ms theories among all classes of people in every coun- 
try. Theories that were of no great significance to the masses 
and at that almost incomprehensible to them became the center 
of political controversies. At a time when political ideals had 
been shattered by the war and new philosophies and political 
systems were being sought, the public was puzzled and myste- 
riously attracted by the connection between Einstein's scientific 
work and politics. The public interest was further increased by 
the appearance of articles by philosophers published in daily 
newspapers stating that Einstein's theories might perhaps be of 
some importance in physics, but were certainly untrue philo- 

The public wondered what sort of man was this Einstein, and 
they wanted to see and hear this famous scientist in person. 
From every country Einstein began to receive invitations to 
come and give lectures. He was amazed, but happy to comply 
with the people's wishes. He enjoyed leaving the narrow circle 
of his professional colleagues and coming into contact with new 
people. It was also refreshing for him to leave Berlin and Ger- 
many, to go away from this tormented and harrowing atmos- 
phere, and to see new countries. 

These journeys and public appearances, however, added an- 
other cause for attacks on Einstein. Even some German scientists 
became annoyed, and one of them, a hard-working observer in 
the laboratory, wrote a brochure entitled The Mass Suggestion 
of the Relativity Theory. In it he gave aa interpretation of Ein- 
stein's travels from his own point of view. He wrote: "As soon 
as the erroneous character of the relativity theory became evi- 
dent in scientific circles, Einstein turned more and more to 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

the masses and exhibited himself and his theory as publicly as 

The first instance of this "unscientific" publicity was Ein- 
stein's lecture at the ancient and honorable University of Leiden 
in Holland. There he lectured before fourteen hundred students 
of this famous center of physical science on "Ether and the Rela- 
tivity Theory." This lecture led to many misinterpretations. 
Einstein, who had previously suggested that the term "ether" be 
dropped so as to prevent the rise of any idea that one is dealing 
with a material medium, discussed another proposal : namely, 
the word "ether" be used for "curved space," or what amounts 
to the same thing, for the gravitational field present in space, 

Einstein's new proposal irritated some physicists and made 
others happy. Quite a few were unable to differentiate between 
a proposal to use a word in a certain sense and an assertion of 
a physical fact. They said: "For a long time efforts were made 
to convince us of the sensational fact that the ether had been 
got rid of, and now Einstein himself reintroduces it; this 
man is not to be taken seriously, he contradicts himself con- 

Einstein, however, was happy to be in the quiet, pleasant city 
of Leiden, among good friends and remote from the contro- 
versies of Berlin. He loved to carry on discussions with a physi- 
cist of this city, Paul Ehrenfest, a Viennese by birth who was 
married to a Russian physicist. Husband and wife were inde- 
fatigably ready to discuss with Einstein the most subtle ques- 
tions regarding the logical relations of physical propositions. 

Einstein was also appointed professor at Leiden, but he was 
required to lecture there only a few weeks throughout the year. 
It was a pleasant thought to look forward to this period of rest 
every year. And in Berlin there were constant speculations as 
to whether Einstein would move permanently to Holland. His 
opponents tried everything possible to make it unpleasant for 
him to remain in Berlin. Many Germans thought that they must 
be thankful to Einstein because by means of his great popularity 
abroad he was acting to increase Germany's prestige after the 
lost war. His enemies, however, began a campaign against him, 
asserting that he was making propaganda abroad only for his 
own reputation, not for Germany. 

Hanisch, the Prussian Minister of Education and a member 
of the Social Democratic Party, wrote an anxious letter to Ein- 
stein entreating him not to let himself be disturbed by these 
attacks and to remain in Germany. The government of the Ger- 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

man Republic was very well aware how valuable he was for 
German culture and for its prestige throughout the world. The 
German government was even sorry that the great new theory 
of a German scientist had been studied and confirmed by Eng- 
lish astronomers so that a large part of the ensuing fame had 
been lost to the Germans. The Minister requested Einstein to 
make use of the assistance of German observers and promised 
him governmental assistance. 

Einstein, who appreciated greatly the significance of Berlin 
as a center of science and research, also understood very well 
that it was now important for all progressively minded elements 
to do everything possible to increase the prestige of the Ger- 
man Republic. He wrote a letter to the Minister in which he 
said: "Berlin is the place to which I am bound by the closest 
human and scientific ties." He promised if possible to remain 
in. Berlin and even applied for German citizenship, something 
that he had not wanted to accept from the Imperial government. 
He thus became a German citizen, a circumstance that later en- 
tailed only troubles for him. 

2. Czechoslovakia 

In Prague, which was now the capital of the new 
Czechoslovak Republic, a Urania society had been organized to 
arrange lectures for the German-speaking population, and in 
particular to acquaint them with the great personalities of the 
new republican Germany. The president of Urania, Dr. O. 
Frankel, also endeavored to induce Einstein to lecture in Prague. 
Einstein, who was fond of recalling the quiet times he had en- 
joyed when he was working in Prague, seized the opportunity 
to revisit his old university and friends. He was also interested 
in becoming acquainted with the new democratic state that had 
arisen under the leadership of President Masaryk on the ruins of 
the Habsburg monarchy. The psychological status of the Ger- 
man minority in Prague and in Czechoslovakia in general was 
approximately like that of the population of the defeated Ger- 
man Reich within Europe. Einstein's visit increased the self- 
esteem of the Germans in Czechoslovakia, who were later called 
"Sudeten Germans/' and played a fateful role in the crisis 
that led to the second World War. When Einstein's visit was 
announced, one of the papers of this minority wrote: "The 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

whole world will now see that a race that has produced a man 
like Einstein, the Sudeten German race, will never be sup- 
pressed." This was characteristic of the nationalistic thinking. 
On the one hand every effort was made to keep the race free 
of all foreign admixtures; on the other hand, when someone 
was needed, even one who had not spent two years among this 
race was counted as a member of the group. 

Early in 1921 Einstein returned to Prague, where I was 
then teaching as his successor. I had not seen him for years. 
I remembered only the great physicist, the man with an artistic 
and often jesting outlook on the world, who at that time had 
already enjoyed a great reputation among scientists. But during 
the years that had passed since then, he had become an inter- 
national celebrity, a man whom everyone recognized from his 
photographs in the newspapers, whose opinions on politics and 
art were sought by every reporter, and whose autograph was 
wanted by every collector; in short, a man whose life no longer 
belonged entirely to himself. As so often happens in such cases, 
he had ceased to be an individual person in many respects; he 
had now become a symbol or banner upon which the gaze of 
masses of people was directed. 

I was therefore very curious to meet him again, and was some- 
what worried about how I could make it possible for him to 
live a halfway quiet life in Prague and prevent him from being 
overburdened by his obligations as a famous man. When I met 
him at the station, he had changed very little and still looked 
like an itinerant violin virtuoso, with the combination of child- 
likeness and self-assurance that attracted people to him, but that 
sometimes also offended them. I had been married only a short 
time then, and during this period shortly after the war it was 
so difficult to find an apartment that I lived with my wife in 
my office at the Physics Laboratory. It was the same room, with 
the many large windows looking out on the garden of the 
mental hospital, that had formerly been Einstein's office. Since 
Einstein would have been exposed to curiosity-seekers in a hotel, 
I suggested that he spend the night in this room on a sofa. This 
was probably not good enough for such a famous man, but it 
suited his liking for simple living habits and situations that con- 
travened social conventions. We told no one about this arrange- 
ment, and no journalist or anyone else knew where Einstein 
spent the night. My wife and I spent the night in another room. 
In the morning I came to Einstein and asked him how he had 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

slept. He replied: "I felt as if I were in a church. It is a remark- 
able feeling to awake in such a peaceful room." 

We went first to police headquarters, where, as was common 
during the postwar period, every stranger had to report. Then 
we visited the Physics Laboratory of the Czech University. The 
professors there were pleasantly surprised by seeing Einstein, 
whose picture hung on the wall, appear in person in their room. 
By this visit Einstein wanted to express his sympathy for the new 
Czechoslovak Republic and its democratic policy under Ma- 
saryk's leadership. 

In Prague, as in all the cities that had belonged to the Austro- 
Hungarian monarchy, a large part of the social life took place 
in the cafes. There people read newspapers and magazines, met 
with friends and acquaintances, and discussed business prob- 
lems and scientific, artistic, or political questions. New political 
parties, literary circles, or large business firms were founded in 
cafes. Often, however, people sat alone, studying books or doing 
their own writing. Many students prepared for their examina- 
tions there, because their rooms were too cold, too dark, or 
simply too dreary. Einstein wanted to visit such places and he 
said to me: "We ought to visit several cafes and look in to see 
what the various places frequented by different social classes 
look like." Thus we paid rapid visits to several cafes; in one we 
saw Czech nationalists, in another German nationalists; here 
were Jews, there Communists, actors, university professors, and 
so forth. 

On the way home Einstein said to me: "Now we must buy 
something for lunch so that your wife won't have too much 
bother." At that time my wife and I cooked our meals on a gas 
burner such as is used for experiments in chemical or physical 
laboratories, a so-called Bunsen burner. This took place^in the 
same large room in which we lived and where Einstein had 
also slept. We came home bringing some calf's liver that we had 
purchased. While my wife began to cook the liver on the gas 
burner, I sat with Einstein talking about all sorts of things. Sud- 
denly Einstein looked apprehensively at the liver and jumped at 
my wife: "What are you doing there? Are you boiling the liver 
in water? You certainly know that the boiling-point of water is 
too low to be able to fry liver in it. You must use a substance 
with a higher boiling-point such as butter or fat." My wife had 
been a college student until then and knew little about cooking. 
But Einstein's advice saved the lunch; and we got a source of 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

amusement for all our married life, because whenever "Ein- 
stein's theory" was mentioned, my wife remembered his theory 
about frying calf's liver. 

That evening he lectured before the Urania association. It 
was Einstein's first popular lecture that I had heard. The hall 
was dangerously overcrowded since everyone wanted to see the 
world-famous man who had overthrown the laws of the uni- 
verse and proved the "curvature" of space. The ordinary public 
did not really know whether it was all a colossal humbug or 
a scientific achievement. Nevertheless, it was ready to marvel at 
both. As we were going in to the lecture, a very influential man 
in public life who had himself done a great deal to organize 
the meeting pushed through the crowd and said to me: "Please 
tell me quickly in one word, is there any truth in this Einstein 
or is this all bunk?" Einstein spoke as simply and clearly as 
possible. But the public was much too excited to understand the 
meaning of the lecture. There was less desire to understand, 
than to experience an exciting event 

After the lecture the chairman of the Urania gathered to- 
gether a number of guests to spend the evening with Einstein. 
Several speeches were made. When Einstein's turn came to an- 
swer, he said: "It will perhaps be pleasanter and more under- 
standable if instead of making a speech I play a piece for you 
on the violin." It was easier for him to express his feelings in this 
way. He played a sonata by Mozart in his simple, precise, and 
therefore doubly moving manner. His playing indicated some- 
thing of his intense feeling for the complexity of the universe 
and simultaneously of the intellectual joy over the possibility of 
expressing it in simple formulas, 

Einstein remained in Prague another evening to participate 
in a discussion of his theories that was to take place in the Urania 
before a large audience. Einstein's main opponent was a philos- 
opher of the Prague University, Oskar Kraus, an acute thinker 
in the philosophy of law, whose conception of scientific discus- 
sions, however, was more like that of a counsel at a trial He 
made no attempt to explore the truth, but instead wanted 
only to refute his opponent by finding passages that were con- 
tradictory in the writings of Einstein's supporters. In this he 
was successful. Anyone who wants to present a complex subject 
popularly must introduce some simplifications. But every author 
introduces them at different places according to his own taste 
or his opinion of his reader's tastes. If every statement by a 
popularizer is then taken literally, contradictions must neces- 


Travels through Europe,, America, and Asia 

sarily arise. But this has nothing to do with the correctness o! 
Einstein's theory. 

Professor Kraus was a typical proponent of the idea that one 
can learn various things about the geometrical and physical be- 
havior of bodies through simple "intuition." Anything that con- 
tradicted this intuition he considered absurd. Among these ab- 
surdities he included Einstein's assertion that Euclid's geometry, 
which we all learned in school, might not be strictly correct. 
Since in Kraus's opinion the truths of ordinary geometry must 
be clear to every normal person, it was a puzzle to him how a 
person like Einstein could believe the opposite. His wife re- 
minded me not to speak to him about Einstein's theory. She 
said that he often spoke about it in his sleep and he got excited 
over the idea that there were people who could "believe what 
is absurd." It was tormenting for him to think that such a thing 
was possible. 

This philosopher was the chief speaker against Einstein. I 
presided at this discussion and endeavored to direct it in half- 
way quiet paths. A number of people now appeared who wanted 
to take advantage of an opportunity that would probably never 
present itself to them again. They could now fling the opinions 
that they had formed privately directly at the famous Einstein; 
he was compelled to listen to them. As a result several comical 
things occurred. Thus a professor of mechanical engineering 
at the Institute of Technology made some remarks that were 
false, but sounded rather reasonable. After the lecture Einstein 
said to me: "That laborer spoke naively, but not in an entirely 
foolish way." When I replied that he was not a laborer, but 
a professor of engineering he said: "In that case it was too 

On the following day Einstein was to depart, but by early 
forenoon the news had already spread that Einstein was staying 
at the Physics Laboratory and many people hurried to speak to 
him. I had great difficulty in arranging a relatively quiet depar- 
ture. For instance, a young man had brought a large manuscript. 
On the basis of Einstein's equation E = me 2 he wanted to use the 
energy contained within the atom for the production of fright- 
ful explosives, and he had invented a kind of machine that could 
not possibly function. He told me that he had awaited this 
moment for years and in any case wanted to speak to Einstein 
personally. I finally prevailed upon Einstein to receive him. 
There was but little time left and Einstein said to him: "Calm 
yourself. You haven't lost anything if I don't discuss your work 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

with you in detail Its foolishness is evident at first glance. You 
cannot learn any more from a longer discussion." Einstein had 
already read about a hundred such "inventions." But twenty- 
five years later, in 19455 *he " rea ^ thing" exploded at Hiroshima. 

3. Austria 

From Prague Einstein went to Vienna, where he also 
had to give a lecture. The Vienna of this postwar period was 
completely different from the city that Einstein had visited in 
1913. It was now no longer the capital of a great empire, but 
only that of a little republic. 

Among Einstein's acquaintances, too, changes were notice- 
able. His friend Friedrich Adler had become a public figure. 
During the war, when the Austrian government had refused to 
convene the parliament and to submit its course of action to the 
judgment of the people's representatives, Friedrich Adler, im- 
bued with a fanatical desire to achieve what he considered just, 
had shot the head of the government during a dinner in a 
fashionable hotel. 

Adler was arrested and condemned to death, but the Emperor 
commuted his sentence to life imprisonment, since Adler's fa- 
ther, although leader of the Socialists, was a man highly regarded 
in government circles. The hypothesis was set up that Friedrich 
Adler was not in his right mind when he committed the assas- 
sination. This assumption made it easier to commute his sen- 
tence, but the investigation of his mental state was remarkable. 
While in prison, Adler had written a work on Einstein's theory 
of relativity; he believed that he was able to present cogent 
arguments against it This manuscript was sent by the court to 
expert psychiatrists and physicists. They were to determine 
whether any conclusion could be drawn from it that the author 
was mentally deranged. In this way I received a copy of the 
manuscript. The experts, especially the physicists, were placed 
in a very difficult situation. Adler's father and family desired 
that this work should be made the basis for the opinion that 
Adler was mentally deranged. But this would necessarily be 
highly insulting to the author, since he believed that he had 
accomplished an excellent scientific achievement. Moreover, 
speaking objectively, there was nothing in any way abnormal 

Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

about It except that his arguments were wrong. I imagine, how- 
ever, that he owed the commutation of his sentence rather to 
the prestige of his father and the inclination of the Imperial 
government to compromises than to the madness of his argu- 
ments against the theory of relativity. 

In Vienna Einstein lived with the well-known physicist Felix 
Ehrenhaf t, who in his entire mode of working was the diametri- 
cal opposite of Einstein, but whom Einstein occasionally found 
congenial for this very reason. Einstein was always interested in 
determining how much could be deduced from a few funda- 
mental principles. The greater the extent to which natural phe- 
nomena could be fitted into a simple pattern, the more interest- 
ing they were for him. Ehrenhaft, however, was a man of the 
direct experiment. He believed only what he saw, and constantly 
found isolated phenomena that did not fit into the grand 
scheme. For this reason he was frequently regarded with dis- 
dain, especially by persons who accepted the general scheme 
as an article of faith. A man like Einstein, who had himself 
brought these general principles to life, always felt mysteriously 
attracted whenever he heard of irregularities. Even though he 
did not believe that they existed, yet he suspected that there 
might be the germs of new knowledge in these observations. 

Ehrenhaft's wife was a remarkable figure among the women 
of Vienna. She was herself a physicist and an outstanding or- 
ganizer of education for girls in Austria. She was astonished 
when Einstein arrived with only one white collar. She asked 
him: "Perhaps you have forgotten something at home?" He 
replied: "By no means; this is all that I need." As a good house- 
wife she sent one of the two pair of trousers that he had brought 
with him to be pressed by a tailor. But to her consternation she 
noticed at the lecture that he had put on the unpressed pair. 
Mrs. Ehrenhaft also thought that he had left his bedroom slip- 
pers at home and bought him a new pair. When she met him 
in the hall before breakfast, she noticed that he was barefooted. 
She inquired whether he had not seen the slippers in his room. 
"They are entirely unnecessary ballast," was his reply. He did 
not like shoes at all, and at home when he really wanted to re- 
lax he could often be seen in his stocking feet, sometimes even 
when he had visitors who were not very formal. 

During his stay Einstein also came in contact with the two 
intellectual currents of Vienna that have most strongly influ- 
enced the intellectual life of our time: Siegmund Freud's psy- 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

choanalysis, and the positivistic tradition of Ernst Mach. Ein- 
stein called on Josef Breuer, a doctor who together with Freud 
had published the first paper on the psychological causes of hys- 
terical paralyses, and the engineer and writer Popper-Lynkeus, 
the nearest friend of Ernst Mach, who once remarked that at 
first Popper-Lynkeus had been the only one to understand his 
ideas. At this time Popper-Lynkeus was already eighty years 
old and confined to his sofa, but intellectually he was still very 
alert and always eager to meet new and interesting people. He 
had worked out a project for the abolition of economic misery in 
Germany through the introduction of a general labor service* 
This plan was put into practice later in a distorted way by Adolf 
Hitler. It was a great occasion for Popper when he met Einstein 
who had become the true heir of Mach's ideas in the field of 

Einstein's lecture, which was given in an enormous concert 
hall before an audience of some three thousand people, was 
probably the first lecture of this kind that he had given. Even 
more than in Prague the public was in a remarkably excited 
state, the kind of mental state in which it no longer matters 
what one understands so long as one is in the immediate neigh- 
borhood of a place where miracles are happening. 

4. Invitation to the United States 

After Einstein's return to Berlin he was more than ever 
a center of general attention. Just as formerly the German pro- 
fessor who forgets his umbrella, the hunter who buys a hare at 
the butcher's shop, or the old maid looking for a man had ap- 
peared repeatedly in the German comic journals, now the name 
Einstein became a generic name for anyone who writes some- 
thing incomprehensible and is admired on this account. Espe- 
cially the word "relative" stimulated people to the most trivial 
jokes. In part they were malicious, trying in some way to con- 
nect Einstein's theory with the efforts of victorious France to 
squeeze as large reparations as possible out of Germany. The 
German government always tried to show that the country was 
completely impoverished, while the French doubted this. Thus 
a German comic journal represented Einstein in conversation 
with the French President Millerand, who was a vigorous advo- 
cate of the "Make Germany pay" policy- Millerand says to Ein- 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

stein: "Can't you persuade die simple-minded Boctie that even 
with an absolute deficit of 67,000,000,000 marks he is still rclar 
lively well off?" 

Einstein, however, paid as little attention as possible to all 
these political and personal vexations and endeavored rather to 
dispel scientific and philosophical misunderstandings of his the- 
ories. Many people considered particularly absurd the assertions 
of Einstein's theory that Euclidean geometry is invalid in a 
gravitational field, that space is curved, and perhaps even finite. 
This was because everyone had learned in school that the postu- 
lates of geometry are absolutely correct, since they are not based 
on experience, which is fallible, but rather on infallible pure 
thought or on still more infallible "intuitive perception." 

In a lecture delivered at the Prussian Academy in January 
1921 Einstein clarified the relation between "Geometry and Ex- 
perience," He said there: "In so far as geometry is certain, it 
says nothing about the actual world, and in so far as it says 
something about our experience, it is uncertain." He made a 
sharp distinction: On the one side is mathematical geometry, 
which deals only with the conclusions that can be drawn from 
certain assumptions without discussing the truth of these as- 
sumptions. In it everything is certain. Alongside it is a physical 
geometry, which Einstein used in his theory of gravitation. It 
deals with the results of measurements on physical bodies and is 
a part of physics, like mechanics. Similarly it is just as certain 
or uncertain as the former. This lecture through its clear formu- 
lations brought order into a field where confusion often pre- 
vailed, and in some instances still prevails even among mathe- 
maticians and physicists. Since then Einstein's formulations 
have been cited as the clearest and best, even by philosophers. 

But while Einstein was working on this lecture, thoughts of 
another kind were also passing through his head. A short time 
before, he had received an invitation from Weizmann, the 
leader of the Zionist movement, to accompany him on a trip to 
the United States, 

At a time when but few German scientists and very few Ger- 
man Jews had any intimation of the coming Nazi revolution 
in Germany, it was already fairly evident to Einstein that con- 
ditions were developing there that could become very unpleas- 
ant for him. He sensed the activities of the group growing 
beneath the surface that were later to come to power as the Na- 
tional Socialist Party. Indeed, Einstein was one of the first to 
feel the impact of this movement. When Einstein gave his lec- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

ture in Prague, he spoke to me about these apprehensions. At 
that time he thought that he would not like to remain in Ger- 
many longer than another ten years. It was then 1921. His 
estimate was too conservative by only two years. 

The purpose of the trip that Weizmann planned was to ob- 
tain help in America for the establishment of a Jewish national 
home in Palestine, and in particular for the Hebrew University 
to be founded there. Since the American Jews were considered 
the wealthiest in the world, these aims could be accomplished 
only with their financial assistance. Weizmann laid great value 
on this teamwork. He hoped that Einstein's scientific fame 
would encourage American Jews to contribute to a noble cause. 
Einstein was now in a position to place his prestige at the dis- 
posal of the Zionist movement for these purposes, which he 
considered as having a very great educational significance for 
the Jews. After considering the matter for only a few days Ein- 
stein accepted the invitation. 

He was motivated chiefly by the desire not only to be active 
as a pure scientist, but also to contribute something to the wel- 
fare of persecuted human beings. He was also impelled by the 
desire to see America with his own eyes and to become ac- 
quainted with the life in this new world. He felt that it would 
be worth while for him to know something about the great 
country on the other side of the Atlantic whose tradition of 
democracy and tolerance had always struck a sympathetic chord 
within him. 

5. Reception by the American People 

The arrival of Einstein and his wife in New York 
Harbor was accompanied by demonstrations of enthusiasm such 
as had probably never before been seen at the arrival of a sci- 
entist, especially not of a scientist whose field is mathematical 
physics. Reporters and cameramen in large numbers rushed 
aboard ship to photograph him or to ask him various questions. 
Facing the cameras was the easiest of these ordeals. After it 
was over, Einstein said: "I feel like a prima donna." He also 
replied with a fine sense of humor to the questions that the re- 
porters put to him. As a matter of fact, he was used to strange 
questions and had already 'developed a certain technique for an- 
swering such questions as cannot be answered rationally. On 

Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

such occasions he usually said something that was not a direct 
answer to the question, but was still rather interesting, and 
which when printed conveyed to the reader a reasonable idea 
or at least gave him something to laugh about. Einstein was 
never a killjoy. 

The interrogators were chiefly interested in three things. The 
first question was the most difficult: "How could one explain 
the content of the relativity theory in a few sentences?" It was 
probably impossible to answer this question, but it had already 
been put to Einstein so many times that he had prepared an 
answer in advance. He said: "If you will not take the answer too 
seriously and consider it only as a kind of joke, then I can ex- 
plain it as follows. It was formerly believed that if all material 
things disappeared out of the universe, time and space would be 
left. According to the relativity theory, however, time and space 
disappear together with the things." 

The second question was very "urgent": "Is it true that only 
twelve people in the world understand the theory of relativity ?" 
Einstein denied that he had ever made such an assertion. He 
thought that every physicist who studied the theory could read- 
ily understand it, and that his students in Berlin all understood 
it. Nevertheless, this last assertion of Einstein's was certainly 
too optimistic. 

The third question, on the other hand, was a very delicate 
one: the reporters asked Enstein to explain the existence of 
such mass enthusiasm for an abstract theory that is so hard to 
understand. Einstein answered with a joke. He suggested that 
it was a problem for psychopathological investigation to de- 
termine why people who are otherwise quite uninterested in 
scientific problems should suddenly become madly enthusiastic 
over the relativity theory and want to greet Einstein on his ar- 
rival. One of the reporters asked him whether it might not be 
due to the circumstance that the theory has something to do 
with the universe, and the universe in turn with religion. Ein- 
stein replied that it was quite possible. But in his endeavor not 
to permit the rise of any exaggerated opinions regarding the 
general significance of his theory for the great majority, he said: 
"But it will not change the concept of the man in the street" 
He explained that the only significance of the theory was that 
it derived from simple principles certain natural phenomena 
that were formerly derived from complicated principles. This 
is naturally important for philosophers, but hardly for the man 
in the street. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

After this rather abstract discussion the desire to ask ques- 
tions subsided somewhat and Einstein was able to close with the 
words: "Well, gentlemen, I hope I have passed my examina- 
tion." Then, to get an element of human interest, Mrs.^ Einstein 
was asked whether she also understood the theory. "Oh no," 
she answered in a friendly but somewhat amazed tone, "al- 
though he has explained it to me so many times; but it is not 
necessary for my happiness." 

Finally Mr. and Mrs. Einstein could go ashore. Einstein passed 
through the enormous crowd of onlookers, a brier pipe in one 
hand, a violin case in the other. Now he no longer appeared to 
the crowd as a mythical harbinger of a new system of ^the uni- 
verse, as the man who had revolutionized space and time, but 
rather as a friendly musician who arrived for a concert in New 
York smoking his pipe. 

The enthusiasm manifested by the general public on Ein- 
stein's arrival in New York is an event in the cultural history 
of the twentieth century. There was no single cause for this 
phenomenon. First of all, there was the general interest ^in the 
theory of relativity, which in itself was something astonishing. 
A second factor was the recognition that Einstein had received 
in England two years earlier, after the observation of the solar 
eclipse had confirmed his theory. Finally, there was something 
romantic about his present trip. He came not only as a scientist, 
but also to fulfill a political mission that was not a matter of 
ordinary politics but was itself surrounded with an aura of 
romanticism. His visit to America was his contribution to the 
movement whose purpose it was to enable the Jewish people to 
return to its homeland after having wandered over the world 
for two thousand years. For the Jews who felt that to a greater 
or lesser degree they were strangers everywhere in the world, 
these were happy tidings; and to every person in America it re- 
called the Holy Land and the legend of the Wandering Jew, 
thus striking a strongly responsive chord and evoking profound 
sympathies in many Christians. 

Einstein took the whole matter very calmly. Nevertheless, he 
was amazed that so many people could be interested in things 
about which he had pondered in silence and which he had 
thought would probably always remain limited to a small 
group. Einstein's enemies often claimed that this enthusiasm 
had been manufactured by the press. This assertion, however, 
is as trivial as it is erroneous. Newspapers are constantly pub- 
licizing all sorts of things; they succeed in arousing enthusiasm 

1 80 

Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

for football games and movie stars; but no newspaper publicity 
could ever produce such enthusiasm for a mathematical physi- 
cist, even though all kinds of scientists have been publicized 
by the press. The reasons for this success must already have been 
present in the situation Itself, in the unique coincidence of Ein- 
stein's achievements, his personality, and the intellectual needs 
of his age at the moment. When I once asked Einstein what 
emotions were aroused in him when he saw himself honored 
in this way, he replied: "The impression cannot be very ele- 
vating when I remember that a victorious boxer Is received with 
still greater enthusiasm." 

He himself was always inclined to see the causes of this phe- 
nomenon rather in the disposition of the public than in his own 
person. Thus he sometimes jokingly remarked: "The ladies in 
New York want to have a new style every year this year the 
fashion is relativity." 

Nevertheless, if one considers the matter realistically and dis- 
passionately, one must ask with amazement: how was it that a 
mathematical physicist became as popular as a boxer ? Seen ob- 
jectively, this was indeed a good indication of popular taste in 
New York. It may have been simply a desire for sensation, but 
if so, why was this popular interest centered on Einstein ? 

Some persons regarded it as an indication of the high cultural 
level of the American people. This was the view of the editor 
of the best popular scientific journal: "No European populace 
would welcome a distinguished scientist with such enthusiasm. 
America doesn't boast a leisure class that takes conventional 
interest in science and philosophy. But the figures of reading and 
educational efforts justify the belief that Einstein should have 
taken the honors bestowed upon him at their face value, as evi- 
dence of a profound popular interest in the field where he has 
so few peers." 

Perhaps it will seem strange to some people, but the truth is 
that Einstein never worried his brain very much regarding the 
reasons for this interest. His attitude toward the world around 
him was always to some extent that of an onlooker at a per- 
formance. He was accustomed to believe that many things are 
incomprehensible, and human behavior was not one of the 
things in which he was most interested. As a normal, natural 
person he was happy when he was received with friendliness 
and goodwill, without inquiring too much into the reasons for 
such kindliness. He was never inclined to have too high an 
opinion of the goodwill of the public or to make any conces- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

sions to it. His utterances were never calculated to evoke cheap 
applause. In later years he was well aware that many persons 
paid a great deal of attention to everything he said,, and that it 
was important to utilize this power over people for educational 
purposes. For this reason in interviews with newspapermen he 
often said things that were not very pleasant or very compre- 
hensible to the readers of these newspapers. His idea was that 
when an opportunity presents itself, good seed should be sown. 
Somewhere some of it will sprout. 

Einstein had put himself at the disposal of the Zionist leaders 
with the idea that his presence would help their propaganda for 
the Jewish National Fund and especially the collection of con- 
tributions for the university in Jerusalem. At the meetings that 
were organized for these purposes in many places throughout 
the United States, he sat near Weizmann, generally in silence, 
sometimes speaking a few words in support of him. He sin- 
cerely wanted to be a faithful member of the movement for the 
rebirth of the Jewish people. At one meeting he spoke after 
Weizmann, quite as if he was a member of the rank and file 
who wanted no personal prominence but wished only to serve 
the cause. He said: "Your leader Dr. Weizmann has spoken and 
he has spoken very well for us all. Follow him and you will 
do well. That is all I have to say." This sounds almost as if it 
was spoken in the spirit of the leadership principle. In some 
respects it was probably a relief for Einstein, who always stood 
alone, to feel himself a member of a popular movement rooted 
in the broad masses. But this feeling was always of only short 
duration. Inevitably there soon reappeared his aversion to every- 
thing that ties him to a party, even though in certain respects 
it may have been congenial to him. 

Einstein and Weizmann were regarded by all official person- 
alities in America as authorized representatives of the Jewish 
people and greeted as such. President Harding wrote in a letter 
to a meeting at which Einstein and Weizmann spoke: "Repre- 
senting as they do leadership in two different realms their visit 
must remind people of the great services that the Jewish race 
has rendered to humanity." 

Similarly Mayor Hylan of New York in welcoming them at 
the City Hall addressed them as the representatives of their peo- 
ple, saying: "May I say that in New York we point with pride 
to the courage and fidelity of our Jewish population demon- 
strated in the World War." 

The Jewish population of America itself regarded Einstein's 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

visit as the visit of a spiritual leader, which filled them with 
pride and joy. The Jews felt that their prestige among their 
fellow citizens was raised by the fact that a man of Einstein's 
generally recognized intellectual greatness publicly acknowl- 
edged his membership in the Jewish community and made their 
interests his own. When Einstein arrived with Weizmann in 
Cleveland, all the Jewish businessmen closed their establish- 
ments so as to be able to march in the parade that accompanied 
Einstein from the Station to the City Hall When Einstein and 
Weizmann addressed Zionist meetings, it seemed almost as if 
the political and spiritual heads of the Jewish people were ap- 
pearing together. 

These appearances in the service of the organization that rep- 
resented some of his political and cultural aims were inter- 
spersed with lectures on his scientific theories. Sometimes he 
appeared in a most informal manner. Thus he visited Professor 
Kasner's class at Columbia University just as he was explain- 
ing the theory of relativity to his students. Einstein congratu- 
lated Kasner on the comprehensible manner in which he did 
this, and then spoke to the students himself for about twenty 

Later he addressed the students and faculty of Columbia Uni- 
versity and was greeted by the outstanding physicist Professor 
Michael Pupin. This remarkable man, once a Serbian shepherd, 
had become one of the leading inventors and scientists in the 
world, and through his understanding of electrical phenomena 
the first transatlantic telephone cable had been made possible. 
He regarded all theories with the dispassionateness of a labora- 
tory worker, but, unlike so many others, greeted Einstein not as 
a person who invented absurd and sensational things but as 
the "discoverer of a theory which is an evolution and not a 
revolution of the science of dynamics." 

At this time Einstein always lectured in German, because he 
did not yet have full mastery of English. On May 9 he received 
an honorary degree from Princeton University. President Hib- 
ben of the university lauded him in a German address: "We 
salute the new Columbus of science voyaging through the 
strange seas of thought alone." Later Einstein gave several lec- 
tures at Princeton, in which he presented a comprehensive sur- 
vey of the theory of relativity. 

Einstein was regarded, however, not only as a representative 
of the Jewish people. Since he had left his work at the Berlin 
Academy to come to America, and because he spoke German 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

everywhere, he was also considered a representative of German 
science. In view of the fact that it was not long after the war, 
this aroused hostile reactions in some quarters. 

Sometimes semi-comical occurrences took place when politi- 
cal attacks were directed against him and no one knew whether 
he was attacked as a Jew or as a German. An episode of this 
kind occurred when Fiorello H. La Guardia, then president of 
the Board of Aldermen of New York City, proposed that Ein- 
stein be given the "freedom of the City of New York." All the 
aldermen were in favor of this resolution but one, who declared 
"that until yesterday he had never heard of Einstein." He asked 
to be enlightened,, but nobody offered to explain the theory of 
relativity. But the Jews and the Germans did not believe in the 
naivete of Einstein's opponent. He was accused of partly anti- 
Semitic, partly anti-German opinions. He defended his action 
on patriotic grounds: he wanted to spare his beloved native city 
from the possibility of becoming a scientific and national laugh- 
ing stock. He. said at the session: "In 1909 the key of the city 
was unfortunately given to Dr. Cook, who pretended to have 
discovered the North Pole." Perhaps, he suggested, Einstein had 
not really discovered the theory of relativity. Besides, he con- 
tinued, "I have been assured that Professor Einstein was born 
in Germany and was taken to Switzerland but returned to 
Germany prior to the war. He is consequently a citizen of Ger- 
many, of an enemy country, and might be regarded as an 
enemy alien." 

Everyone was so interested in Einstein's theory and its mean- 
ing that Congressman J. J. Kindred of New York requested the 
Speaker of the House of Representatives for permission to pub- 
lish a popular presentation of the relativity theory in the Con- 
gressional Record. Representative David Walsh of Massachu- 
setts had his doubts about permitting anything to appear in 
the Record that had nothing to do with the activities of Con- 
gress and that in addition seemed to be incomprehensible. 

"Well, Mr. Speaker," said Representative Walsh, "ordinarily 
we confine matters that care to appear in the Congressional 
Record to things that one of average intelligence can under- 
stand. Does the gentleman from New York expect to get the 
subject in such shape that we can understand the theory?" 
Kindred answered: "I have been earnestly busy with this theory 
for three weeks and am beginning to see some light." But then 
Representative Walsh asked him: "What legislation will it bear 
upon?" To this Representative Kindred could only reply: "It 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

may bear upon the legislation of the future as to general rela- 
tions with the cosmos/ 5 

At the time when Einstein was in the United States, a state- 
ment by the great inventor Thomas Edison created quite a 
furore throughout the country. He denied the value of college 
education and asserted that education should be directed toward 
learning relevant facts. He worked out a questionnaire contain- 
ing questions that he thought were relevant for practical peo- 
ple, and suggested that tests be made, which would show that 
most college graduates were unable to answer these questions. 

While Einstein was in Boston, staying at the Hotel Copley 
Plaza, he was given a copy of Edison's questionnaire to see 
whether he could answer the questions. As soon as he read the 
question: "What is the speed of sound ?" he said: "I don't know. 
I don't burden my memory with such facts that I can easily find 
in any textbook," Nor did he agree with Edison's opinion on 
the uselessness of college education. He remarked: "It is not 
so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does 
not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The 
value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning 
of many facts but the training of the mind to think something 
that cannot be learned from textbooks." For this reason, ac- 
cording to Einstein, there can be no doubt of the value of a gen- 
eral college education even in our time. 

Einstein was often mentioned together with Edison, both be- 
ing honored as the outstanding representatives of physical sci- 
ence. Edison was to the technical application of physics what 
Einstein was to its theoretical foundation. 

Einstein also visited the physics laboratories of the oldest uni- 
versity in the United States, Harvard University. Professor Theo- 
dore Lyman, famous for his optical investigations, informed him 
about the work that was being done there. Lyman had the feel- 
ing that after the many meetings at which Einstein had been 
used as an instrument of political propaganda, even though for 
a purpose with which he was entirely in sympathy, he now 
could breathe freely, being again in the atmosphere of a physics 
laboratory and able to immerse himself in the problems of nature. 
Most visitors to a laboratory rapidly pass by the experimental ar- 
rangements and listen only half-heartedly to the explanations of 
the students. Einstein, however, did not remain satisfied with a 
superficial "That is very interesting," or some similar polite re- 
mark; instead, he allowed several students to give him detailed 
explanations of the problems on which they were working. Fur- 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

thermore, lie actually thought about these problems, and some 
students received advice from him that was helpful in their 
research. Such absorption during a strenuous journey is only pos- 
sible for a man possessing two qualities that are rarely found to- 
gether: first, an unusual ability to familiarize himself rapidly 
with an unfamiliar problem; and secondly, the capacity to enjoy 
helping someone who is doing scientific research. 

There is no doubt that Einstein made his first trip to America 
not only in the service of science and of the future university 
in Jerusalem,, but also because he was particularly interested in 
becoming acquainted with life on this continent, which was new 
to him. This first trip, however, was not very favorable for the 
achievement of this purpose. The entire journey proceeded at 
a whirlwind pace, leaving him no time for any quiet reflection. 
As a result the impressions that Einstein received on his first 
visit to the United States could only be very superficial ones that 
struck one at first glance. In the first place he was impressed 
by American youth, with its fresh energetic urge to acquire 
knowledge and to do research. He once said: "Much is to be ex- 
pected from American youth: a pipe as yet unsmoked, young 
and fresh." Then there was the impression of the many peoples 
that had settled America, which despite their different origins 
lived together in peace under a tolerant democratic regime. He 
remarked in particular about New York City: "I like the res- 
taurants with the color of the nations in the air. Each has its own 
atmosphere. It is like a zoological garden of nationalities, where 
you go from one to another." He was also struck by the role 
of women in American life, observing that it was much greater 
than the part played by women in European life. 

Efforts were made to enlist Einstein's interest in campaigns 
to restrict the use of tobacco and Sunday amusements. In such 
matters, however, Einstein did not favor any excessive restric- 
tions on individual liberty. He was much too natural a person 
not to have recognized the importance of the innocent pleas- 
ures of daily life. He did not have any faith in cut and dried 
schemes for making people happy by dictating to them what 
they are to regard as work and what as play. Replying to a man 
who had requested his opinion on the matter of Sunday rest, 
he said: "Men must have rest, yes. But what is rest? You can- 
not make a law and tell people how to do it. Some people have 
rest when they lie down and go to sleep. Others have rest when 
they are wide awake and are stimulated. Some must work or 
write or go to amusements to find rest. If you pass a law to show 

1 86 

Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

all people how to rest, that means you make everybody alike. 
But everybody is not alike." 

Einstein, who devoted his entire life to the discovery of physi- 
cal laws that could be derived from a few general principles,, 
was not of the opinion that life could be regulated according to 
a few abstract principles. He was always more inclined to rely 
on the natural instincts. As a passionate smoker he also re- 
marked on that occasion: "If you take tobacco and everything 
else away, what have you left ? Ill stick to my pipe." 

He often had experiences that made it difficult for him to 
maintain his equanimity. His naive joy in simple pleasures 
such as smoking certainly helped him in these situations. Ascetic 
instincts were foreign to him. 

6. England 

The report of the English astronomers to the Royal 
Society in London in 1919 had laid the foundation for Einstein's 
world fame. But Einstein himself had not yet been in London. 
In 1919, in the postwar atmosphere of hostility to Germany, it 
had indeed been possible to recognize the theory of a German, 
but not to honor a German personally. Lord Haldane, who 
had always worked for the improvement of Anglo-German re- 
lations, had been in Berlin shortly before Einstein's arrival there, 
but had received a cool reception from the Kaiser. Immediately 
after the war and Germany's defeat, however, Haldane again 
began to build up new cultural relations with Germany. Einstein 
seemed to him to be a person who could serve as the thin 
end of a wedge with which one could penetrate the mass of hos- 
tility and prejudice. Many favorable factors seemed to be pres- 
ent: the great acclaim that Einstein's prediction of the result of 
the solar eclipse expeditions had produced; the opportunity for a 
great achievement that had thus been presented to English sci- 
ence; and finally, also, the favorable circumstance that Einstein 
did not belong to the hated kind of German; indeed, if one so 
desired, he could be regarded as a non-German. It thus seemed 
almost as if Einstein had been specially created to act as an inter- 
mediary. In addition, for Lord Haldane there was a very im- 
portant personal factor. He was one of those English states- 
men whose hobby was science combined with philosophical 
speculation* Haldane had set himself the problem of how, de- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

spite the skepticism that had become prevalent in religion, mor- 
als, politics, and even science as a result of the disappointments 
of the postwar period, one could still retain an objective con- 
ception of truth. In his book The Reign of Relativity, published 
in 19215 he pointed out that the views that skeptics regard as 
different are actually only different aspects of the same truth 
and that therefore a single objective truth exists. Or, in Hal- 
dane's own words: 

"The test of truth may have to be adequacy in a fuller form, a form 
which is concerned not only with the result of measurement with the 
balance or rule, but with value, that cannot be so measured and that 
depends on other orders of thinking. What is truth from one stand- 
point may not of necessity stand for truth from another. Relativity, 
depending on the standard used, may intrude itself in varying forms. 
... It may, therefore, be stated generally that an idea is true when 
it is adequate, and only completely adequate when it is from every 
point of view true. Each form of test that is applicable must be satis- 
fied in the conception of perfect adequacy; for otherwise we can 
have only truth that is relative to particular standpoints." 

This philosophy found its practical application in a training 
for tolerance toward one's fellow man and in the struggle against 
the overestimation of political doctrines. In Einstein's theory 
Haldane saw a special example of his own philosophy. He be- 
lieved that the physical theory of relativity would invest his 
philosophy of relativity with greater certainty and an increased 
brilliance. Consequently Haldane endeavored to induce Einstein 
to stop over in England for several days on his return from 
America, to give several lectures there, and personally to meet 
scientists and people in public life. 

Not only were there political difficulties in the way of such 
personal contacts, but the entire mental attitude of the English 
physicists was not such as to make them very enthusiastic about 
a theory like that of relativity. English science was always much 
more intent upon the direct connection between experiment 
and theory. A connection that consisted in such long chains of 
thought as in Einstein's theory often appeared to the English 
physicist to be a philosophical phantasm too much theory for 
so few facts. In England philosophers, astronomers, mathemati- 
cians, even theologians and politicians were passionately inter- 
ested in the theory, but the physicists themselves were still rather 
cool to "Relativity" as a basic concept. 

Lord Haldane presided at Einstein's lecture at King's College. 


Travels through Europe., America, and Asia 

He introduced the lecture by saying that it had been an ex- 
tremely moving moment for him when Einstein laid a wreath 
on Newton's grave in Westminster Abbey. "For," Haldane told 
the audience, "what Newton was to the eighteenth century, Ein- 
stein is for the twentieth." 

In Haldane's house, where Einstein lived, he met many 
famous Englishmen, like Lloyd George, Bernard Shaw and 
A. N. Whitehead, the mathematician and philosopher, who had 
so vividly sensed the historic significance of the session of the 
Royal Society at which the result of the solar eclipse had been 
announced. Whitehead had long discussions with Einstein and 
repeatedly attempted to convince him that on metaphysical 
grounds the attempt must be made to get along without the as- 
sumption of a curvature of space. Einstein, however, was not in- 
clined to give up a theory, against which neither logical nor 
experimental reasons could be cited, nor considerations of sim- 
plicity and beauty. Whitehead's metaphysics did not seem quite 
plausible to him. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican 
Church, was especially desirous of meeting Einstein. Lord Hal- 
dane, who called attention everywhere to the philosophical sig- 
nificance of the relativity theory, had told him that this theory 
also has important consequences for theology and that as head 
of the Anglican Church it was his duty to become acquainted 
with it. Shortly thereafter, at the Athenaeum Club, a friend of 
the Archbiship met J. J. Thomson, the physicist and president 
of the Royal Society, and requested his help in a very important 
matter. "The Archbishop, who is the most conscientious of men, 
has procured several books on the subject of relativity and has 
been trying to read them and they have driven him to what, it 
is not too much to say, is a state of intellectual desperation. I 
have read several of these myself and have drawn up a memo- 
randum which I thought might be of service to him." 

Thomson was surprised by these difficulties and said he did 
not think that the relativity theory was so closely connected with 
religion that the Archbishop had to know something about it. 
Nevertheless, the conscientious head of the church was not satis- 
fied, and when Einstein came to London and Lord Haldane ar- 
ranged a dinner the Archbishop asked for an invitation. He was 
placed as Einstein's neighbour and was able to hear whether 
Haldane was right in his assertion that the theory of relativ- 
ity is important for theology, or Thomson, who disputed it. 
At dinner the Archbishop asked bluntly "what effect relativity 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

would have on religion." Einstein replied briefly and to the 
point: "None. Relativity is a purely scientific matter and has 
nothing to do with religion." 

7, Einstein Tower and the Rathenau Murder 

In June 1921, after visiting the United States and Eng- 
land, Einstein returned to Berlin. The honors that he had re- 
ceived abroad had their effect in Germany. Well-meaning per- 
sons who were not really interested in science tried in every 
possible way to learn about Einstein's theories without having to 
exert themselves mentally. As a result some people profited from 
this boom by convincing others that they could teach the rela- 
tivity theory. At this time, for instance, a so-called "Einstein 
film" was shown in movie theaters that was supposed to teach 
the theory painlessly. First it showed a student listening to a 
boring lecture by a dull professor and sighing: "How much 
longer will this lecture last? Still another quarter of an hour?" 
Then it showed the same student sitting on a bench in a garden 
with a pretty girl, complaining: "I can only stay fifteen min- 
utes more." This was supposed to teach the "relativity of time" 
to the public. As we have seen, this has nothing to do with Ein- 
stein's theory. Such popularizations, which distorted and made 
the theory trivial, vexed Einstein more than the attacks on him. 

In Berlin people also amused themselves with anecdotes from 
England. For instance, an imaginary conversation between Ein- 
stein and Bernard Shaw was described in which the skeptical 
author asks: "Tell me, my dear Einstein, do you really under- 
stand what you wrote?" And Einstein, smiling at him, replies: 
"As much as you understand your things, dear Bernard." 

At this time the desire for a short, easily comprehensible pres- 
entation of the theory of relativity led an American who was 
living in Paris and who had been impressed by the London re- 
ports on the solar eclipse expeditions to offer a prize of five thou- 
sand dollars for the best essay on Einstein's theory in not more 
than three thousand words. Attracted by the remuneration of 
five dollars for three words, many entered the contest, and, in- 
deed, it was rather difficult to find judges, since everyone ac- 
quainted with the subject preferred to enter the contest. Einstein 
remarked playfully: "I am the only one in my entire circle of 
friends who is not participating, I don't believe I have the ability 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

to accomplish the task." On June 21, 1921, out of the three hun- 
dred essays submitted, the prize was awarded to a sixty-one-year- 
old Irishman, a native of Dublin, who like Einstein had been 
employed in a patent office for a long time (in London), and 
who was a dilettante in physics. It can hardly be said that his 
essay was better than those of his competitors, nor did it have 
any further influence in spreading an understanding of the rel- 
ativity theory. The public remembered only the fact that some- 
one had been able to earn five thousand dollars by means of it, 
and concluded that it must therefore be worth the effort of 
studying it. 

In the fall of 1921 an important step was taken to investigate 
another of the astronomical conclusions of Einstein's theory. 
Dr. Bosch, the director of I. G. Farben, the greatest chemical 
concern in Germany, that was outstanding in the production of 
synthetic dyes, medicaments, and explosives, donated a large 
sum of money for the erection at Potsdam of an institute to be 
connected with the Astrophysical Observatory, where the color 
composition of solar rays could be investigated with great pre- 
cision. It will be recalled that from his theory of gravitation Ein- 
stein had predicted that the color of light coming to us from 
the stars depends on the intensity of the gravitational field 
through which the rays pass. This prediction was to be verified 
by exact observations. 

The astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich was appointed di- 
rector of this institute. The laboratory was built in the form of 
a tower and the architectural design was in the characteristic 
modern Berlin style of that period, so that the result was a cross 
between a New York skyscraper and an Egyptian pyramid. The 
tower became generally known as the Einstein Tower. Its ap- 
pearance alone was enough to excite the ire of the nationalistic 
groups who preferred a style more reminiscent of German me- 
dieval models or at least of classical antiquity. 

Through a strange concatenation of circumstances, the Ein- 
stein Tower was under the control of Friedrich Wilhelm Luden- 
dorff, a brother of the famous general Ludendorff who for a 
long time collaborated with Adolf Hitler. At that time the 
astronomer Ludendorff still permitted the investigation of 
solar light on the basis of Einstein's theory. He satisfied his 
nationalistic sentiments by endeavoring to prove that Coperni- 
cus was a German and not a Pole, even though his monument 
stood in Warsaw. 

On June 24, 1922 Walther Rathenau, then minister of foreign 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

affairs, was murdered by several fanatical students. This murder 
revealed the preparations for the revolution from the Right, and 
even those who consciously or unconsciously ignored the back- 
ground of this crime were compelled to take a more serious view 
of the matter. The effect on Einstein was more intense than on 
the general masses because through his insight and instinctive 
perception it had become clear to him that sincere allegiance to 
the German Republic was confined to a small group; beneath 
it yawned a hate-filled abyss. 

Einstein had been acquainted with Rathenau and had liked 
this man whose breadth of vision was so rare among German 
politicians. Rathenau, a descendant of a rich Jewish family in 
Berlin, had been the motive force behind the planned economy 
in Germany during the war. After the proclamation of the Re- 
public, Rathenau had played an important part as an economic 
adviser to the government, and through his international repu- 
tation he had been able to perform various services in aid of its 
foreign policy. During the government of the Catholic Chancel- 
lor Wirth, Rathenau had accepted the position of Foreign Min- 
ister and by concluding the Treaty of Rapallo had entered into 
friendly relations with Soviet Russia. This treaty served to stamp 
him as a "Bolshevik," and moreover, being a Jew, he had be- 
come extremely unpopular with the monarchists and the advo- 
cates of the "revolution from the Right." 

The republican government ordered the day of Rathenau's 
burial to be observed as a day of mourning and ordered all 
schools and theaters to remain closed. At the universities lec- 
tures were canceled, but Philipp Lenard, the Heidelburg physi- 
cist who has already been mentioned as an opponent of Einstein, 
refused to obey the order. While the Socialist workers marched 
through the city and organized protest meetings against the 
murderers and their reactionary supporters, Lenard demon- 
stratively gave his regular lecture. A number of students who 
sympathized with the assassins listened to him with enthusiasm. 
A group of workers passing by the building saw the lecture 
going on and, regarding this as a demonstration in favor of the 
murderers, entered the building and dragged Lenard out with 
them. As they passed over the Neckar River some of them at- 
tempted to throw Lenard into the water, but the moderates pre- 
vented them and turned him over to the police, who immedi- 
ately released him. 

In the eyes of all Germany these events linked the fight against 
Einstein's theory with the struggle against the republican re- 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

gime. Rumors began to spread that in the search for Rathenau's 
murderers a list had been found containing the names of other 
persons who were to be the future victims of the same group, 
and the list was supposed to contain Einstein's name. The police 
denied the rumors, but a feeling of uneasiness concerning Ein- 
stein's person began to spread. Einstein himself, with his belief 
in the inevitable in the universe, had no inclination for super- 
stitious presentiments and fears and was not affected. But the 
reaction on those about him was all the greater. 
^ Every year the annual meeting of German scientists and phy- 
sicians took place in September. This year a special celebration 
was planned, as it was the centennial meeting. It was to be held 
in Leipzig. Because during the past few years he had contributed 
most to increase the prestige of German science throughout the 
world, Einstein was invited as keynote speaker to emphasize 
the special character of the occasion. He would have liked to 
accept the invitation, but in the troubled and uneasy atmosphere 
that prevailed after the Rathenau murder he did not wish to 
make any public appearances and declined to participate. Nev- 
ertheless, the executive committee of the society insisted on pre- 
senting lectures by other scientists on the significance of Ein- 
stein's theory, one by the physicist Max von Laue, the other by 
the philosopher Moritz Schlick. 

Because of the spreading sentiment in favor of violence, and 
as a result of his own adventure as well, Lenard felt himself 
compelled and encouraged to protest against the meeting of the 
German scientists in Leipzig. In his opinion, by arranging for 
lectures on Einstein's work, the society of German scientists was 
carrying on propaganda against the revolutionists of the Right 
and on behalf of the group to which the "justly" murdered 
Rathenau belonged. Lenard assembled a group of people who 
drew up a protest against the meeting of the German scientists, 
which was sent to all the newspapers and distributed in Leipzig 
at the doors of the lecture halls. 

Lenard did not succeed, however, in inducing any of the 
creative German physicists to sign his protest. Once again it was 
only the same three types of persons who had taken part in the 
meetings at the Berlin Philharmonic. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

8. France 

Einstein's travels had contributed somewhat to im- 
prove the relations between the scientists of Germany and those 
of America and England. This was agreeable to the government 
of the German Republic and to the German scientists, but was 
very annoying to all those groups that endeavored to maintain 
the idea that in western Europe the Germans were looked down 
upon as an inferior nation and there was a desire to destroy their 
culture. The effect of this "atrocity propaganda" was disturbed 
by the reports of the friendly reception granted to Einstein. It 
had long been discussed whether Einstein would now be bold 
enough to visit Paris, the capital of Germany's "mortal enemy." 
It had been rumored that scientific groups in France were try- 
ing to induce Einstein to make such a visit, so as to be able to 
discuss the new theories with him personally. They had also 
been greatly admired in France, but many persons had found 
it very difficult to understand them. Thus the French mathe- 
matician Paul Painleve, who as Minister of War during the 
World War, and later as Premier and President of the French 
Chamber of Deputies, played a leading role in French politics, 
was much interested in Einstein's work, but misinterpreted it 
at many points and attacked it because of this misunderstand- 
ing. Later he withdrew all his objections. The great French 
physicist Paul Langevin, who immediately grasped the meaning 
of the Einsteinian theories, once remarked to me: "Painleve 
studied Einstein's work very closely, but unfortunately not until 
after he had written about it. Perhaps he is used to this sequence 
from politics." 

Langevin was not only a sagacious scientist but also an active 
participant in every enterprise intended to advance international 
conciliation. At the College de France, the highest scientific 
school in France, he presented a resolution to invite Einstein 
to come to Paris. For this purpose he proposed to use the income 
of an endowment that had been employed to invite other out- 
standing foreign scientists to lecture at this institution. The 
resolution was warmly supported by Painleve. There was some 
opposition, however. The nationalists did not want the recep- 
tion of a German scientist to arouse an impression that any 
diminution of their hatred was possible. With all sorts of threats 
they tried to induce Langevin and his friends not to extend the 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

invitation, just as the analogous groups in Germany attempted 
to force Einstein to reject it. At that time, however, neither of 
these two groups was yet strong enough to achieve its aim. Ein- 
stein accepted die invitation extended by the College de France, 
and toward the end of March 1922 he went to Paris. 

Langevin, the physicist, and the astronomer Charles Nord- 
mann went ahead to Jeumont on the Belgian border to meet 
Einstein and traveled with him to Paris. During the trip they 
discussed the scientific and political questions connected with 
this visit. In the course of this conversation they asked Einstein 
for his opinion on the aims and influence of the Left in German 
political and cultural life. 'Well," replied Einstein, "what is 
superficially called the Left is actually a multidimensional struc- 
ture." Einstein already felt that the roads to the Right and to 
the Left might occasionally lead to the same end. 

Throughout the entire trip Langevin was rather worried. Be- 
fore his departure from Paris it had been rumored that groups 
of the "Patriotic Youth" and other nationalistic groups would 
gather at the station and give Einstein an unfriendly reception. 
Both Langevin and the French officials did not want any dis- 
turbances of this kind to spoil Einstein's visit. While on their 
way, Langevin asked for information about the situation in 
Paris. He received a telegram from the Paris police informing 
him that groups of excited young people were gathering at the 
Gare du Nord, where the trains from Belgium arrived. Since 
it was believed that they were the "patriots," Langevin was ad- 
vised to leave the train with Einstein on a sidetrack where no 
one expected him. They did so, and Einstein was quite happy to 
be able to slip away from the train through a side entrance of 
the station into the street without being bothered by reporters 
or cameramen^ and to ride in the subway to his hotel unnoticed 
by anyone. 

At the Gare du Nord, however, a crowd of students who had 
gathered under the leadership of Langevin's son to give Ein- 
stein an enthusiastic reception and to prevent possible hostile 
demonstrations by the "patriots," waited in vain for his arrival. 
It was these admirers of Einstein whom the police had regarded 
as a hostile crowd, and it was from them that Einstein had fled. 

On March 31 Einstein gave his first lecture at the College de 
France. Only people with tickets were admitted, the tickets hav- 
ing been given only to persons who were known to have an 
actual interest in the subject and who would not attend simply 
to organize a hostile demonstration. Former Premier Painleve 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

stood at the door himself and watched to check that only people 
with invitations were admitted. 

Einstein spoke in the hall where great philosophers such as 
Ernst Renan and Henri Bergson had lectured before large audi- 
ences. Here it was easier than in England and America for him 
to come into contact with his audience, since he spoke French 
fluently and confidently, but with a slowness to which the 
French were unaccustomed and which together with his slight 
foreign accent gave his speech a certain charm and attractive- 
ness the charm of pensiveness combined with a trace of mys- 
tery. This slight trace of mystery contrasted with the evident 
effort to present everything as logically and clearly as possible, 
using as few technical expressions and as many metaphorical 
comparisons as possible. Many internationally known scholars 
and persons in public life attended the lecture, among them 
Madame Curie, the discoverer of radium, the great philosopher 
Henri Bergson, Prince Roland Bonaparte, and many others. 

Besides this public lecture there were sessions of the philo- 
sophical and mathematical society for scientists who wanted a de- 
tailed discussion where everyone could put questions to Einstein 
and raise all kinds of objections. Einstein answered every ques- 
tion thoroughly and many misunderstandings were cleared up. 

It was very strange that the Society of French Physicists did 
not take part officially in any of these arrangements even though 
many of its members naturally met Einstein. This attitude was 
determined chiefly by its nationalistic tendencies, which, it 
seems, are stronger among physicists and technicians, than 
among the more abstractly thinking mathematicians, astron- 
omers, and scientific philosophers. 

As in Germany, a certain resistance among the "pure" experi- 
mental physicists may also have been involved. In France there 
were also "pure empiricists," the kind of physicists about whom 
Einstein often remarked: "Everything that they learned up to 
the age of eighteen is believed to be experience. Whatever they 
hear about later is theory and speculation." 

The famous Academy, which had been attacked and ridiculed 
for years in French literature as a center of all kinds of preju- 
dices, likewise maintained its reputation on the occasion of Ein- 
stein's visit. There were long discussions whether Einstein 
should or could be invited to give a lecture. Some members 
maintained that it was impossible because Germany was not a 
member of the League of Nations, Others, in turn, thought that 
such an invitation would give rise to a difficult question of 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

etiquette. Since Einstein was not a member of the Academy, lie 
could not sit among the members, but would have to sit in the 
audience. Such an unhonorable seat, however, could not be of- 
fered to so famous a man. Finally thirty members of the Acad- 
emy stated very bluntly, without any subtle phraseology, that if 
Einstein entered the room, they would immediately leave. In 
order to spare his French friends any unpleasantness and annoy- 
ance, Einstein himself declined to participate in a session of the 

On this occasion a Paris newspaper inquired derisively: "If a 
German were to discover a remedy for cancer or tuberculosis, 
would these thirty academicians have to wait for the application 
of the remedy until Germany joined the League?" 

The reception in Paris had shown that the need for an under- 
standing of the modes of thought and methods of work of dif- 
ferent peoples and individuals existed among scientists in all 
countries, and could be satisfied if there were a few courageous 
men. It also became clear that everywhere the forces of ultra- 
nationalism waited only for a suitable occasion in order to ap- 
pear on the surface. In order to be able to judge these events 
correctly one circumstance must not be forgotten. Exactly the 
same groups that protested violently against the reception of 
Einstein because he was a German became the most zealous 
proponents of a policy of "collaboration" with Germany after 
the Nazis had seized the power there. These French "patriots" 
prepared the French defeat of 1940 and the German domination 
of the Continent. 

In France just as in Germany it was evident that the atti- 
tudes of people to Einstein depended greatly on their political 
sympathies, since most of them made no serious effort to form 
an opinion about his theories. A famous historian at the Sor- 
bonne put it as follows: "I don't understand Einstein's equa- 
tions. All I know is that the Dreyfus adherents claim that he 
is a genius, while the Dreyfus opponents say he is an ass." 
Dreyfus was a captain in the French army who in 1894 had 
been accused of treason by anti-Jewish propagandists. The 
affair developed into a struggle between the Republic and its 
enemies, and the entire country was divided into two camps, 
the defenders of Dreyfus and their opponents. "And the re- 
markable thing," added this historian, "is that although the 
Dreyfus affair has long been forgotten, the same groups line 
up and face each other at the slightest provocation." 

In Germany the republican government was attacked because 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

it had allowed Einstein to go to Paris and "overtures" to be 
made to the French; and in France the mathematicians and 
philosophers were attacked because they wanted to listen to one 
"whose people killed our sons." And when Einstein returned 
to Berlin and attended the first session of the Prussian Academy 
again, quite a few of the seats around him were empty. 

9. China, Japan, Palestine, and Spain 

After these journeys to England and France, where his 
stay was always bound up with political tensions and where 
it was really impossible to enjoy the new experiences, it was a 
relief for Einstein to travel to the countries of the Far East, to 
experience the varied impressions made upon him, and like a 
child at play to enjoy the variety of the world without having 
to consider constantly whether or not national sensibilities at 
home or abroad were being insulted. 

Einstein arrived in Shanghai on November 15, 1922 and in 
Kobe, Japan, on November 20. He remained in Japan until 
February, when he sailed for Europe. 

He was honored everywhere not only as a scientist, but also 
as a representative of Germany. In Shanghai he was greeted at 
the pier by the teachers and pupils of the German school, who 
sang Deutschland, Deutschland uber dies. In Japan he was re- 
ceived personally by the Empress, who conversed with him in 

When I once asked Einstein whether he had not experienced 
many strange things in his travels through these picturesque 
and exotic countries, he replied: "I have seen strange things 
only in my homeland for instance, at the sessions of the Prus- 
sian Academy of Science." 

The Orientals the Hindus, the Chinese, the Japanese 
with their calmness, meditativeness, and politeness, enchanted 
Einstein. Their liking for moderation and beauty was for him 
a true relaxation after the exaggerated glorifications and ani- 
mosities he had experienced in his own country and its imme- 
diate neighbors. 

With his preference for the music of Mozart, Bach, and the 
old Italian masters, Oriental music necessarily appeared very 
strange to him. He was unable to discover anything enjoyable 
in it. He was impressed, however, by the love for art, that makes 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asm 

Japanese families often spend a good part of the day in the 
theater listening to the music, bringing their food with them 
and not stirring from the spot. 

In certain respects it was a similar attitude when hundreds 
of Japanese listened patiently to Einstein's lectures without un- 
derstanding even the language in which he spoke, let alone the 
content. One time Einstein observed that his lecture, together 
with the added Japanese translation, lasted more than four 
hours. He was shocked by this fact, because he pitied the people 
who listened so long and patiently to him, most of them with- 
out understanding much of what he said. When he gave his 
next lecture he shortened it so that it lasted only two and a half 
hours. While riding in the train to the next city, he noticed 
that his Japanese companions were whispering to each other in 
Japanese, looking at him, and then whispering again. Einstein 
began to feel uneasy, because such behavior was quite unusual 
in view of the politeness of the Japanese. Finally Einstein said 
to one of his companions: "Please tell me quite frankly if there 
is something amiss." Thereupon the polite Japanese answered 
with embarrassment: "We did not dare to say anything to you 
about it, but the persons who arranged the second lecture were 
insulted because it did not last four hours like the first one. 
They considered it as a slight." 

On his way back, Einstein visited Palestine. For him this land 
was in a different category from China or Japan. Here he was 
unable to be simply an unparticipating observer, viewing the 
varied scenery as a pleasant relaxation from his work. Here he 
was to experience tensions that were both pleasant and un- 
pleasant, because Einstein himself had carried on propaganda 
for the development of a Jewish national home in Palestine and 
to a certain degree felt himself responsible for it. Naturally, 
however, many things were not carried out as he would have 
desired, with the result that many people held him responsible 
for things with which he himself was not in sympathy. Ein- 
stein's collaboration in the development of Palestine was always 
directed only toward the advancement of the main goal, which 
he regarded as desirable. Of the concrete details of this develop- 
ment, only very few could be attributed to his suggestions. Con- 
sequently he was curious to see the actual appearance of what 
until then had been only a more or less vague dream. 

As one of the most prominent advocates of Jewish coloniza- 
tion and as one of the outstanding personalities among the Jews 
throughout the world, he was received in Palestine, even more 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

than in other countries, as a public figure. He was invited by 
the Governor of Palestine to live at his house. The Governor 
at this time was Viscount Herbert Samuel, a man who had al- 
ready acquired a reputation in English domestic politics. He 
was himself a Jew, a fact that the English government appar- 
ently considered a particularly appropriate manifestation of its 
friendly attitude toward the development of the Jewish national 
home. In practice, however, things did not work out so well. 
The position of a Jewish governor was particularly difficult in 
the face of the growing controversies between the Jews and 
Arabs. Daily he had to prove the absolute impartiality of the 
English government in this conflict. Since he himself was a 
Jew, it was only natural to attribute to him a certain bias in 
favor of the Jews, so that he had to compensate for this by 
leaning over backward in favor of the Arabs, with the result 
that in the end he discriminated against the Jews. He could not 
help making himself generally unpopular. 

Like Lord Haldane, Viscount Herbert Samuel was one of 
those English statesmen whose hobby was to occupy themselves 
with science, especially with the philosophy of science. Like 
Haldane he too had a strong personal interest in the relativity 
theory. As regards its philosophical interpretation, Herbert Sam- 
uel's views were opposed to those of Einstein and were more 
along the lines of traditional philosophy. 

In the land, which was regarded more or less as a colony, an 
English governor had to present an imposing front in order to 
keep the "natives," including both Jews and Arabs, obedient and 
respectful. When he left his palatial residence a cannon was 
fired, and when he rode through the city he was accompanied 
by mounted troops. Within his residence there prevailed a cere- 
monial formality reminiscent of the ceremonial practices at the 
English court* It was necessary to arouse in the "natives" a 
sense of awe in the presence of the direct representative of the 
King. Einstein did not pay too much attention to all this. He 
was as simple and natural as anywhere else. Mrs. Einstein, how- 
ever, felt rather uneasy. She said later: "I am a simple German 
housewife; I like things to be cozy and comfortable and I feel 
unhappy in such a formal atmosphere. For my husband it is a 
different matter; he is a famous man. When he commits a breach 
of etiquette, it is said that he does so because he is a man of gen- 
ius. In my case, however, it is attributed to a lack of culture." 
Sometimes, to avoid the difficulties of etiquette and ceremonial, 
she went to bed. 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

Einstein studied with, the greatest interest the work of the 
Jews in developing an independent national life. He saw the 
new Jewish city of Tel-Aviv. In Europe the Jews usually be- 
longed to only one particular class of the population; they were 
often persecuted by other classes, who represented the work 
performed by the Jews as being especially easy or particularly 
obnoxious. Tel-Aviv, however, was a city in which all work was 
done by Jews. Here they could not so easily acquire the feeling 
of occupying an abnormal position as an ethnic and economic 

Nevertheless, Einstein also saw the difficulties of the Jewish 
situation above all, the unsatisfactory relations with the Arabs. 
He was not enough of a national partisan to do what so many 
others did that is, simply put the blame on the ingratitude of 
the Arabs and the insufficient support of the Jews by England. 
He demanded on the part of the Jews an effort to understand 
the cultural life of the Arabs and to make friends with them. 

For this reason not all the Zionist groups welcomed Einstein. 
The extreme nationalists looked upon him just as suspiciously 
as the adherents of Jewish religious orthodoxy. The latter took 
it a little amiss that he did not consider the observance of the an- 
cient rites important and that occasionally he even ventured a 

In March 1923 Einstein returned from Palestine by boat to 
Marseille. Thence he traveled to Spain, whose landscape and 
art were always a source of joy to him. Just as he had conversed 
with the Empress of Japan, so Einstein also had a conversation 
with King Alfonso XIII of Spain. Thus he not only saw strange 
lands and cities, but also obtained a personal impression of a 
class of people that usually remains unknown to scientists. Ein- 
stein, who always retained something of the curiosity of an in- 
telligent child gathered new strength for his creative work from 
all these experiences. Everything seemed to him like a dream, 
and he sometimes remarked to his wife: "Let us enjoy every- 
thing, before we awake," 

10. Nobel Prize, Alleged Trip to Russia 

On November 10, 1922, while Einstein was on his trip 
to the Orient, the committee of the Swedish Academy of Sci- 
ence awarded him the Nobel prize for physics. Although he had 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

long been recognized as one of the greatest physicists of his 
time, it had taken rather a long while for the committee to de- 
cide to award him the prize. In establishing the endowments, 
Alfred Nobel had stipulated that the prize should be awarded 
for a recent discovery in physics from which mankind had de- 
rived a great use. No one was sure whether Einstein's theory of 
relativity was a "discovery." Originally, it did not assert new 
phenomena, but was rather a principle from which many facts 
could be derived more simply than formerly. Furthermore, 
whether this discovery was of any great use to mankind was 
naturally a matter of personal opinion. After Einstein's theory 
became an object of so many attacks and was even linked to 
political controversies, the Swedish Academy thought that it 
should be cautious and not award the prize to Einstein for a 
while. After the explosion of the atomic bomb in 1945, the 
Academy apparently recognized the great use to mankind of 
Einstein's theory of relativity, as it quickly awarded the prize 
to O. Hahn, the discoverer of the uranium fission. 

Toward the end of 1922, however, the Academy thought of 
a clever expedient by which it could award the prize to Einstein 
without having to take a stand on his relativity theory. It 
awarded the prize to Einstein for his work in "quantum theory" 
(see Chapters III and IV). This work had not been so hotly de- 
bated as the theory of relativity. But in it "facts were discovered" 
'that is, statements were advanced from which observable 
phenomena could be deduced by means of few conclusions. In 
the case of the theory of relativity this train of reasoning was 
much longer. This subtle distinction, however, authorized the 
Academy in the case of the photoelectric and photochemical law 
to speak of a "discovered fact," while it would not do so in the 
case of the relativity theory. By this expedient the Academy suc- 
ceeded to avoid the expression of any opinion about the contro- 
versial theory of relativity. The statement of the award was 
couched in very general terms: "The prize is awarded to Ein- 
stein for the photoelectric law and his work in the field of theo- 
retical physics." 

As soon as Einstein's enemies heard of this, they began to as- 
sert with greater vehemence than ever before that there was 
something peculiar about the entire business. Einstein, they said, 
received the prize for a discovery that was not important enough 
to justify such a reward. Early in 1923 his old enemy Lenard 
wrote a letter to the Swedish Academy in which he branded the 


Travels through Europe, America, and Asia 

entire action as an attempt "to restore Einstein's lost prestige 
without compromising the Academy itself." 

In July 1923, when he received the award, Einstein lectured 
at a meeting of Scandinavian scientists at Goteborg, which was 
attended by the King of Sweden. 

Since the public, especially in Germany, carefully followed 
everything that Einstein did, some with enthusiasm, others with 
suspicion and hatred, the following report, which appeared on 
September 15 in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a paper for 
the more educated and wealthier nationalistic groups, could not 
but arouse great excitement, and in some people even anger and 

"From Moscow we learn that Professor Einstein is expected there 
at the end of September. He will speak there on the theory of rela- 
tivity. Russian scientists are looking forward to the lecture with great 
interest. In 1920 Einstein's writings were brought to Russia by plane, 
immediately translated, and appeared among the first works of the 
Bolshevist state press." 

It must be kept in mind that in Germany Einstein's relativity 
theory had been characterized as "Bolshevism in physics," that 
many people believed in a Jewish conspiracy in which Einstein 
and Rathenau had participated, and finally that Rathenau had 
concluded the treaty of friendship with Soviet Russia. At that 
time the alliance with Soviet Russia was not yet regarded by the 
German nationalists as a particularly shrewd move in foreign 
policy intended to serve the national interests of Germany, but 
rather as a betrayal of the German people. Hence it is not sur- 
prising that many persons saw Einstein's reported trip as an in- 
dication of his participation in a Bolshevist conspiracy against 
Germany, and spread all kinds of rumors about it. 

On October 6 the democratic Berliner Tageblatt reported: 
"Professor Einstein has left for Moscow. ... In Moscow prep- 
arations are being made to give the famous German scientist 
an imposing welcome." 

On October 27 the nationalistic Berliner Eorsenzeitung re- 
ported: "The Soviet Russian press reports that Einstein is arriv- 
ing in Petersburg on October 28 and will speak on the relativity 
theory to a group of scientifically trained workers." 

On November 2 the Kieler Zeitung reported: "Einstein is 
staying in Petersburg for three days." 

In the middle of November, when it was believed that Ein- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

stein had returned from Russia, he received many threatening 
letters in which nationalistic fanatics threatened that he would 
be "executed" like Rathenau, if he continued his conspiracies 
with the Bolsheviks. The remarkable thing about all this, how- 
ever, is that Einstein has never been in Russia, either then or 
at any other time in his life. His journeys to France and Eng- 
land had frequently been taken amiss and had produced a great 
deal of unpleasantness for him in Germany. Evidently it was of 
no avail even to avoid such unpopular trips if one once had be- 
come the target of hate-filled agitators. 

For Einstein the end of 1923 was the end of a period of jour- 
neys throughout the world as a messenger of international un- 
derstanding and as a symbol of an omnipresent interest in the 
most general questions regarding the nature of the universe. In 
1925 he made a trip to South America, but in general he spent 
the following years in Berlin. 




i. Einstein as a Teacher in Berlin 

In 1924, after Ms many journeys, Einstein settled down 
again in Berlin. The transition from lecturing in different coun- 
tries in different languages to people with various intellectual 
training back to regular teaching of physics was not entirely a 
smooth one. Since he was not required to give a regular course 
of lectures., he preferred to give lectures of two extremely di- 
vergent types. On the one hand, he liked to speak before an 
audience of educated laymen to which he could explain the gen- 
eral scientific principles as simply and clearly as possible, seeking 
to give his listeners a vivid picture of the general trends in the 
development of scientific thought. On the other hand, he also 
liked to give highly technical lectures on the problems with 
which he was concerned at the moment, before an audience of 
very advanced students. 

Then, too, his world fame attracted many foreigners visiting 
Berlin. Their lists of sights to be seen there included, together 
with the Brandenburg Gate with its goddess of victory, the 
Siegesallee with its statues of Prussian princes, and the theatri- 
cal productions of Reinhardt, the famous Einstein. Many who 
did not even know whether he was a physicist, mathematician, 
philosopher, or dreamer came to listen to his lectures. On occa- 
sions when these sightseers were unusually numerous, Einstein 
would say: "Now I shall stop for a few minutes so that all those 
who have no further interest can leave." Usually only eight or 
ten students would remain, and then Einstein was happy to be 
able to talk about the things closest to his heart without being 
disturbed by the sight of faces devoid of any understanding. 

Such lectures were not easy to follow even for students in- 
tending to become physicists. Even the brighter ones generally 
expected that Einstein would drum into their heads in a form 
adapted for students the famous discoveries that he had pre- 
sented in his writings and about which everyone spoke. Ein- 
stein, however, was not much interested any longer in researches 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

that had been concluded and published. He was always looking 
for the solutions o new problems, and students who were will- 
ing and able to think about these difficult problems independ- 
ently were few and far between even in such a large center of 
learning as Berlin. 

As I already mentioned, Einstein was at first skeptical about 
the use of very advanced mathematics in developing physical 
theories. When in 1908 Minkowski showed that Einstein's spe- 
cial theory of relativity could be formulated very simply in the 
language of four-dimensional geometry, Einstein had regarded 
this as the introduction of an involved formalism by which it 
became rather more difficult to grasp the actual physical content 
of the theory. When Max von Laue, in the first comprehensive 
book on Einstein's relativity theory, presented it in a very elegant 
mathematical form, Einstein remarked at that time jokingly: "I 
myself can hardly understand Laue's book." 

The center of German mathematical teaching and research 
during this period was the University of Gottingen. Minkowski 
taught there, and the mathematical formulation of the relativity 
theory had begun there. Einstein once remarked playfully: "The 
people in Gottingen sometimes strike me, not as if they wanted 
to help one formulate something clearly, but instead as if they 
wanted only to show us physicists how much brighter they are 
than we." Nevertheless, the greatest mathematician in Got- 
tingen, David Hilbert, realized that while Einstein did not care 
for superfluous formal difficulties in mathematics., he did know 
how to use mathematics where it was indicated. Hilbert once 
said : "Every boy in the streets of our mathematical Gottingen 
understands more about four-dimensional geometry than Ein- 
stein. Yet, despite that, Einstein did the work and not the math- 
ematicians." And he once asked a gathering of mathematicians: 
"Do you know why Einstein said the most original and pro- 
found things about space and time that have been said in our 
generation ? Because he had learned nothing about all the phi- 
losophy and mathematics of time and space." 

In his general theory of relativity, however, Einstein had had 
to resort to the use of a branch of advanced mathematics called 
"tensor analysis" in order to give an adequate description of 
physical phenomena in four dimensional non-Euclidean space. 
With the complication in the calculations that this entailed, Ein- 
stein began to find the need for an assistant who was well 
trained in mathematics. For this purpose Einstein preferred 
young people who had a scientific education and ambition, but 


Development of Atomic Physics 

who because of external circumstances were unable to get a 
job at a public institution. Thus one of his first assistants In 
Berlin was a Russian Jew who suffered from a pathological en- 
largement of his bones (leontiasis) and as a result made such 
a repulsive impression on people that no one wanted to engage 
him as an assistant., let alone as a teacher. In time the young 
man understandably wanted to advance to an independent po- 
sition. He expected Einstein to get him a position as teacher in 
a school although it was obvious that with his unfortunate ap- 
pearance no school would hire him. Nevertheless he blamed 
Einstein for not trying hard enough and finally quarreled with 

It was not easy for Einstein to find a suitable assistant. This 
may appear strange, but there were reasons for it. Students who 
wanted to study physics could wish for no better opportunity 
than to watch and help a man like Einstein at his creative work, 
and to this was added the pleasure of being in contact with a 
man with a very interesting personality, who was extremely 
friendly and adept In the art of conversation* But in large meas- 
ure Einstein's trouble was due to the fact that he did not carry 
on any ordinary teaching in Berlin. The students at the uni- 
versity who were working toward the doctorate or to pass 
examinations as physics teachers were busy enough trying to sat- 
isfy all the demands made on them. They studied with the pro- 
fessors at the university who gave the examinations, and re- 
ceived from them the subjects for their doctoral dissertations. 
Only rarely did one of them come into personal contact with 
Einstein. As a result Einstein usually had as assistants students 
from outside Germany. These foreigners did not come to Berlin 
to pass examinations or to find positions, but to learn from the 
outstanding scientists there. They immediately turned to men 
like Planck, Nernst, or Einstein. In this way Einstein had as 
collaborators first the aforementioned Russian and later the 
Hungarian Cornelius Lanczos and the Austrian Walter Mayer. 
The last two were of great help to Einstein, and published val- 
uable contributions to the general theory of relativity. They are 
now both teaching in American institutions. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

2. Structure of the Atom 

The world believed that Einstein's theory of relativity 
was the oddest and the most radical change in physics that had 
occurred for a long time. Actually new conceptions of matter 
even more baffling and far-reaching In their effects were being 
developed simultaneously. 

In 1905, while still at Bern, Einstein had made outstanding 
contributions to the structure of light, as described in Section 10 
of Chapter III. Since then he had turned his attention to his 
theories of relativity and gravitation, which dealt mainly with 
large objects such as stars and planets and not with the ultimate 
particle of nature the atom. He had considered properties of 
light rays in gravitational fields, but in these cases it had made 
no difference whether light was simply a wave phenomenon or 
consisted of a stream of photons. 

Einstein himself had realized in 1905 when he proposed the 
idea of light quanta (photons) that it was only a provisional 
hypothesis. Numerous difficulties had remained unsolved. For 
instance, the theory of the photon had had amazing success in 
explaining properties of heat radiation and the photoelectric 
effect, but it could not explain the whole set of phenomena 
dealing with the interference and diffraction of light. On the 
other hand, the wave theory, which could cope with these latter 
properties, was useless for those phenomena for which the pho- 
ton theory was successful 

In conversation Einstein expressed this dual character of light 
as follows: "Somewhere in the continuous light waves there 
are certain 'peas,' the light quanta." The amplitude of the 
waves determines how many "peas" are present at any spot, 
but only as a statistical average. One can never know whether 
such a "pea 55 will be present at a particular point at a specific 
instant of time. From the beginning Einstein thought that 
this could not be the ultimate truth. "I shall never believe," 
he once said, "that God plays dice with the world." Neverthe- 
less, "God's dice" penetrated into physics at several points. For 
instance, in the disintegration of radioactive substances a cer- 
tain percentage of the atoms present disintegrate every second, 
but there is no way by which we can tell which particular atom 
will disintegrate in the next second. 

But Einstein's early suggestion of "photons (light quanta) in 


Development of Atomic Physics 

every light ray" had fallen on fertile soil. The "heuristic point 
of view" turned out to stimulate actually new discoveries. In 
1913 the Danish physicist Niels Bohr attempted to correlate 
the structure of atoms with the light emitted by them. Ruther- 
ford in England had shown in 1911 that the atom consists of 
a central nucleus with positive charge and a number of nega- 
tively charged electrons around it Also it had been known for 
a long time that free atoms, unlike glowing solid bodies that 
emit light with continuous distribution of different color s, emit 
light of only certain definite frequencies which are characteristic 
of the atom. In trying to explain this unique character of light 
emitted by free atoms Bohr found that it was completely impos- 
sible if he assumed that the electrons circulate around the nu- 
cleus according to Newton's laws of motion in the same way 
that the planets revolve around the sun. He was thus led to 
setting up a separate hypothesis, with which he modified New- 
ton's laws in much the same way that Planck had done in ex- 
plaining properties of heat radiation. Bohr assumed that only 
certain discrete sets of circular orbits (preferred orbits) were al- 
lowed for the electrons moving around the nucleus. Electrons 
in different orbits had different energies, and when an electron 
jumped from one of higher to one of lower energy, the differ- 
ence in energy was emitted in the form of a light quantum 
(photon). This concept of emission of photons may be consid- 
ered as a sort of inversion of Einstein's photoelectric law, in 
which a photon is absorbed and an electron liberated. But here 
again, as in the case of radioactive atoms, only the average be- 
havior of the atoms, and nothing of individual cases, could be 
predicted. At first this deficiency did not cause much concern. 
It was thought that the behavior of the atoms was not unlike the 
mortality statistics of life-insurance companies, from which the 
average life expectancy of man can be predicted accurately, but 
not that of individuals. Nevertheless every single death has its 
cause. The physicists believed then that similarily causes exist 
for the behavior of the individual atoms, but that they are as yet 

3. Mechanics of the Atom 

The feeling that God did not play dice for the fate of 
the world began to be shaken about the time Einstein settled 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

down in Berlin after his trips. In 1924 Prince Louis de Broglie, 
a graduate student in Paris, submitted a doctoral thesis to Pro- 
fessor Langevin in which he proposed even greater changes in 
Newtonian mechanics than Einstein had done in his theory of 
relativity. Langevin, who was well known as a radical in poli- 
tics,, was staggered by the boldness of the new proposals. De 
Broglie's work seemed fairly absurd to him, but considering that 
the idea of Bohr's "preferred" orbits was also very baffling, he 
thought there might be something in his student's thesis. 

De Broglie had noted that Einstein's "heuristic point of view" 
in optics had been helpful by attributing to light properties that 
are usually ascribed to material particles; namely, energy and 
momentum of photons. De Broglie took his cue from Einstein 
and introduced an analogous "heuristic viewpoint" into mechan- 
ics. To resolve the difficulties in the description of the motion 
of subatomic particles (particles within the atom) de Brog- 
lie suggested that certain wave properties be attributed to parti- 
cles. He assumed that, just as the motion of photons in a light 
ray is determined by the electromagnetic field that constitutes 
the light wave, so the motion of particles is guided or "steered" 
by a new type of waves, called "matter waves" by de Broglie 
and < de Broglie waves" by other physicists. According to this 
view, the "preferred" orbits of Bohr are orbits along which the 
de Broglie waves are built up by interference, while along all 
other orbits the waves are annihilated by interference. This 
phenomenon is exactly analogous to the interference patterns of 
light passing a small hole where there are light and dark regions 
depending on whether light falling on the regions from differ- 
ent directions builds up or interferes. De Broglie waves, how- 
ever, have wave lengths inversely proportional to the momen- 
tum of the particles, and manifest themselves only in the case of 
very small masses, in particular in the case of subatomic parti- 
cles. For any ordinary body like a billiard ball, the wave length 
is so small that it has no observable wave property. 

Two years later Erwin Schrodinger, an Austrian, developed 
on the basis of de Broglie's idea a new mechanics of the atom ac- 
cording to which the motion of atomic particles could be calcu- 
lated for any field of force. In Bohr's theory of the atom New- 
tonian laws and arbitrary assumptions (preferred orbits) are 
mixed to give satisfactory results. Schrodinger, however, ob- 
tained the same results by means of a coherent theory. 

Originally de Broglie and Schrodinger had assumed that the 
connection between the particles and the "steering" waves by 


A recent portrait of Einstein 

Development of Atomic Physics 

which the motion of these particles was directed was a strictly 
"causal" connection. But in 1926 the German physicists Max 
Born and P. Jordan interpreted the intensity of de Broglie waves 
as the average number of particles situated in a unit volume of 
space. The relation between the intensity of matter waves and 
the number of particles is thus exactly the same as that between 
the intensity of light and the number of Einstein's photons. 

This theory, developed by de Broglie, Schrodinger, and Born, 
by means of which not the position itself but only the average 
position of atomic particles could be calculated, began to be 
known as wave mechanics, so named appropriately since it 
laid stress on the wave property of material particles. By this 
theory future observable events cannot be predicted precisely, 
but only statistically. For example, we cannot predict the exact 
point where a particle or photon will hit a screen, but only what 
percentage of incoming protons or particles will hit within any 
given region of the screen. If science could not advance beyond 
this stage, "God would/* as Einstein said, "play dice indeed." 

The idea that there are waves associated with material parti- 
cles received a striking experimental verification. In 1927 two 
Americans, Clinton J. Davisson and L. H. Germer, proved that 
a beam of electrons is diffracted by a metal crystal in exactly the 
same way that light is diffracted by a grating, and X-rays by 
crystals. This confirmation is all the more amazing since diffrac- 
tion is a phenomenon that is purely characteristic of waves, and 
nobody had ever even dreamed that it could be caused by ma- 
terial particles such as the electron until de Broglie suggested 
and Davisson and Germer actually observed it. Moreover, the 
wave length associated with the electrons, which could be cal- 
culated from the size of the diffraction pattern, agreed exactly 
with the value predicted by de Broglie. 

At about the same time, W. Heisenberg, a young German, 
approached the interaction between subatomic particles and 
radiation from another direction. He broke away completely 
from the fundamental notion in Newtonian mechanics that 
a particle changes its location continuously and can thus be 

Einstein in his general theory of relativity started from 
"Mach's requirement" that a physical theory should lead eventu- 
ally to relations between quantities that can actually be meas- 
ured. Accordingly, "absolute motion" was replaced by "motion 
relative to material bodies." Heisenberg started similarly. He 
abandoned the computation of the exact motions of electrons in 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

an atom. For the laws of nature are such that it is impossible to 
determine the path of electrons by any measurement. The only 
properties of an atom that are accessible to actual measurement 
are the intensity and frequency of the emitted radiation. There- 
fore Heisenberg suggested to formulate the basic laws govern- 
ing subatomic phenomena in terms of intensity and frequency 
of radiation. This suggestion implies a radical break with mech- 
anistic physics, which uses "position and velocity of particles" 
as the basic concepts occurring in the fundamental laws of 

If we accept Heisenberg's suggestion, subatomic particles 
(like electrons or photons) are no longer "full-fledged particles" 
in the Newtonian sense, as their behavior cannot be described 
in the Newtonian way. But they are physical objects possessing 
some of the properties of particles. 

This aproach to the theory of atoms has come to be known as 
quantum mechanics. It received a logically more satisfying form 
when Heisenberg went to Copenhagen and collaborated with 
Niels Bohr. 

4. Bohr's Complementarity Principle 

According to Bohr, it was not advisable to throw over- 
board completely the motion of particles as the basis of a descrip- 
tion of subatomic phenomena. The presentation in terms of the 
observable intensity and frequency of radiation, as originally 
suggested by Heisenberg, should be replaced by a restricted or 
qualified use of the "moving particle" as the principal means 
of description. Heisenberg had certainly proved his point that 
the motion of atomic particles cannot be described in the New- 
tonian sense. According to Newton, once the forces that act on 
a particle and its initial position and momentum are given, its 
subsequent position and momentum at any instant can be cal- 
culated with any desired precision. Heisenberg discovered that 
this is not true of subatomic particles. There are no laws which 
connect the position and the momentum of such a particle in 
one instant of time with the values of these quantities at a future 
instant. The laws have in this domain a different character. If 
the initial position and momentum of a particle of very small 
mass (a subatomic particle) are known within a certain margin, 
the position at a future instant can be computed within a cer- 


Development of Atomic Physics 

tain margin. By making the initial margin sufficiently narrow, 
however, we cannot achieve, as in Newton's mechanics, a final 
margin as narrow as we desire. In other words, if we want to 
hit a definite point of a target, we cannot be sure to achieve the 
desired result even if we aim very accurately. If we want to hit 
our target point at least within a reasonable margin, we have to 
consider that according to Heisenberg there is a definite relation 
between the initial margins of position and momentum: the 
product of these two margins has to equal a definite quantity, 
which is, roughly speaking, Planck's constant h. This relation 
has become famous under the name of "Heisenberg's relation of 

Soon afterward Bohr gave a more satisfactory interpretation 
of this strange behavior of atomic particles. He pointed out that 
"position" and "momentum" are two different aspects of a small 
mass (e.g., an electron) in much the same way that the particle 
properties and wave properties are two aspects of the photon. To 
say that a particle is located in a certain limited region of space is 
exactly analogous to the statement that light-energy is concen- 
trated in a photon, and to define the momentum of a particle is 
analogous to the emphasis on the wave aspect of light. Both ma- 
terial particles and light have the dual characteristics of particles 
and waves, but their behavior is neither contradictory nor hap- 
hazard. Bohr emphasized again "Mach's requirement" that we 
should make only such statements as can be tested by definite 
physical experiments. According to him, it depends solely on the 
specific arrangement of apparatus used whether the emission 
of light and of electrons has to be described as a wave or as a 
beam of moving particles. According to this view, the two types 
of properties exhibited are "complementary" features of the 
same physical object. What we observe depends on what observ- 
able reaction of our subatomic phenomena we bring to a test. 
This conception has been called Bohr's theory of complemen- 

Bohr's point of view is therefore even more different from 
Newtonian mechanics than Einstein's theory of relativity. In 
Bohr's conception, we cannot describe what "actually" occurs in 
space while, say, light is emitted by the sun before it hits the 
earth. We can describe only what we observe when a measur- 
ing apparatus is hit by light. We can, for example, describe 
whether or not the light from the sun hits a certain spot on a 
screen. Or, to express it more precisely: We cannot describe 
"physical reality" by describing the path that a particle traverses 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

in space, but we can and must describe only the observations 
made on various physical instruments arranged at different 
points in space and time. Physical laws link together these ob~ 
servations, but not the positions or paths of the particles or pho- 
tons. This viewpoint was interpreted as being in agreement 
with positivistic philosophy which asserts that science cannot 
discover what actually happens in the world, but can only de- 
scribe and combine the results of different observations. 

Since the beginning of the twentieth century more and more 
emphasis has been placed on the conflict between the above 
view that science can only describe and systematize the results 
of observations and the view that it can and must investigate 
the real world. This controversy became particularly acute 
among the physicists in central Europe. Max Planck was the 
spokesman for the latter view, which he called^the "metaphysi- 
cal" view, and he directed his sharpest polemics against those 
who seemed to him to be the most radical representatives of 
the opposite side. In particular he attacked Mach's positivistic 
conception of science, which agrees with Bohr's view. 

About this time a reformulation of positivism started in Vienna 
and Prague. The new movement was closely related to "Mach's 
requirement." The core of the movement was the Wiener Kreis 
(Vienna Circle), Moritz Schlick, R. Carnap, O. Neurath, and 
others. In this country it was described as logical positivism and 
established contact with related established tendencies such as 
pragmatism and operationism. In England a similar movement 
is headed by Bertrand Russell. 

5. Einstein's Philosophy of Science 

Since the positivistic conception of physics had been 
stimulated strongly by Einstein's pioneer work in the theory of 
relativity and in atomic physics, many persons regarded Einstein 
as a kind of patron saint of positivism. To the positivists he 
seemed to bring the blessing of science, and to their opponents he 
was the evil spirit. Actually his attitude to positivism and meta- 
physics was by no means so simple. The contradictions in his 
personality that we have observed in his conduct as a teacher and 
in his attitude to political questions also manifested themselves 
in his philosophy. 

Einstein recognized wholeheartedly the great success of 


Development of Atomic Physics 

Bohr's theory in explaining the many phenomena of atomic 
physics, but from a more philosophical standpoint he was not 
ready to admit that one must abandon the goal of describing 
physical reality and remain content only with the combination 
of observations. He was aware that it was not possible, as New- 
ton had thought, to predict all future motions of all particles 
from the initial conditions and the laws of motion. But perhaps, 
thought Einstein, physical events could be described in terms of 
a new theory as yet unknown. It would consist in a system 
of field equations so general that they would contain the laws of 
motion of particles and of photons as special cases. 

I must admit that over a long time I myself believed that Ein- 
stein was an adherent of the positivistic interpretation of Bohr's 
theory. In 1929, at a congress of German physicists in Prague, 
I delivered an address in which I attacked the metaphysical posi- 
tion of the German physicists and defended the positivistic 
ideas of Mach. After my address a well-known German physi- 
cist with whose philosophical views I was not acquainted rose 
and said: "I hold to the views of the man who for me is not 
only the greatest physicist of our time, but also the greatest phi- 
losopher: namely, Albert Einstein." Thereupon I felt a sense of 
relief and expected the speaker to support me against my oppo- 
nents, but I was mistaken. The speaker declared that Einstein 
rejected the positivistic theories of Mach and his supporters and 
that he regarded physical laws as being more than combinations 
of observations. He added that Einstein was entirely in accord 
with Planck's view that physical laws describe a reality in space 
and time that is independent of ourselves. 

At that time this presentation of Einstein's views took me 
very much by surprise. It was oversimplified, indeed, but I soon 
realized that Einstein's partly antagonistic attitude toward the 
positivistic position was connected with his attitude toward 
Bohr's conception of atomic physics. Shortly afterward I saw a 
paper by Lanczos, one of Einstein's closest collaborators, in 
which he contrasted the theory of relativity with. Bohr's theory 
in the following manner: Einstein's general theory of relativity 
is the physics corresponding to the metaphysical conception of 
science; Bohr's theory, on the other hand, is in accord with the 
radical positivistic conception. I was quite astonished to find the 
theory of relativity characterized in this manner, since I had 
been accustomed to regarding it as a realization of Mach's 

Not long afterward I believe it was in 1932 I was visiting 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Einstein in Berlin. It had been a long time since we had con- 
versed personally, and consequently I knew little of his stand 
on questions about which he had not published anything. We 
discussed the new physics of Bohr and his school, and Einstein 
said, partly as a joke, something like this: "A new fashion has 
now arisen in physics. By means of ingeniously formulated 
theoretical experiments it is proved that certain physical magni- 
tudes cannot be measured, or, to put it more precisely, that ac- 
cording to accepted natural laws the investigated bodies behave 
in such a way as to baffle all attempts at measurement. From 
this the conclusion is drawn that it is completely meaningless to 
retain these magnitudes in the language of physics. To speak 
about them is pure metaphysics." In this statement, among other 
things, he apparently referred to magnitudes such as the "posi- 
tion" and "momentum" of an atomic particle. 

Hearing Einstein talk in this way reminded me of many other 
discussions to which his theory of relativity had given rise. Re- 
peatedly the objection had been raised: if magnitudes such as 
the "absolute temporal interval between two events" cannot be 
measured, one should not conclude that consequently it is com- 
pletely meaningless to speak of this interval and that "absolute 
simultaneity" is simply a meaningless conglomeration of words. 
Einstein's reply to this argument had always been that physics 
can speak only about magnitudes capable of being measured 
by experimental methods. Furthermore, Professor P. W. Bridg- 
man regarded Einstein's theory of simultaneity as the best illus- 
tration of the fruitfulness of his "positivistic" requirement that 
only magnitudes having an "operational definition" should be 
introduced into physics. Consequently I said to Einstein: "But 
the fashion you speak of was invented by you in 1905 ?" At first 
he replied humorously: "A good joke should not be repeated 
too often." Then in a more serious vein he explained to me 
that he did not see any description of a metaphysical reality 
in the theory of relativity, but that he did regard an electro- 
magnetic or gravitational field as a physical reality, in the same 
sense that matter had formerly been considered so. The theory 
of relativity teaches us the connection between different descrip- 
tions of one and the same reality. 

Actually Einstein has been a positivist and empiricist since he 
has never been willing to accept any perennial framework for 
physics. In the name of progress in physics he claims the right to 
create any system of formulations and laws that would be in 
agreement with new observations. For the older positivism the 


Development of Atomic Physics 

general laws of physics were summaries of individual observa- 
tions. For Einstein the basic theoretical laws are a free creation 
of the imagination, the product of the activity of an inventor 
who is restricted in his speculation by two principles: an empiri- 
cal one, that the conclusions drawn from the theory must be 
confirmed by experience, and a half-logical, half aesthetic prin- 
ciple, that the fundamental laws should be as few in number as 
possible and logically compatible- This conception hardly dif- 
fers from that of "logical positivism," according to which the 
general laws are statements from which our observations can be 
logically derived. 

In the twentieth century, when Einstein created his special 
theory of relativity, and even more so when he produced his gen- 
eral theory, it became evident that physical theories were to an 
ever increasing degree no longer simple summaries of observa- 
tional results, and that the path between the basic principles of 
the theory and the observational consequences was more in- 
volved than had formerly been thought. The development of 
physics from the eighteenth century to Einstein was accom- 
panied by a correspondent development of philosophy. The 
conception of general laws as summaries of observations gave 
way more and more to the conception that laws are creations of 
the imagination, which are to be tested by observation. Mack's 
Positivism was replaced by Logical Positivism. 

In the Herbert Spencer Lecture which he gave at Oxford in 
the summer of 1933 shortly before he left Europe forever, Ein- 
stein presented the finest formulation of his views on the nature 
of a physical theory. He spoke first about the physics of the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that is, the period of 
mechanistic physics: 

"The scientists o those times were for the most part convinced that 
the basic concepts and laws of physics were not in a logical sense free 
inventions of the human mind, but rather they were derivable by 
abstraction that is, by a logical process from experiment. It was the 
general theory of relativity that showed in a convincing manner the 
incorrectness of this view." 

After Einstein had emphasized that the fundamental physi- 
cal concepts were products of invention or fictions, he continued : 

"The conception here outlined of the purely fictitious character of 
the basic principles of physical theory was in the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries far from being the prevailing one. But it continues 
to gain more and more ground because of the ever widening gap be- 
tween the basic concepts and laws on the one side and the conse- 


Einstein; His Life and Times 

quences to be correlated with our experience on the other a gap 
which widens progressively with the developing unification of the 
logical structure that is a with the reduction of the number of the 
logically independent conceptual elements required for the basis of 
the whole system." 

As in so many aspects of his life and thought, we also note a 
certain internal conflict in Einstein's attitude toward the posi- 
tivistic conception of science. On the one hand, he felt an urge 
to achieve a logical clarity in physics such as had not previously 
been attained, an urge to carry through the consequences of an 
assumption with extreme radicalism, and was unwilling to 
accept any laws that could not be tested by observation. On the 
other hand, however, he felt that even Logical Positivism did 
not give sufficient credit to the role of imagination in science and 
did not account for the feeling that the "definitive theory" was 
hidden somewhere and that all one had to do was to look for it 
with sufficient intensity. As a result Einstein's philosophy of 
science often made a "metaphysical" impression on persons who 
are unacquainted with Einstein's positivistic requirement that 
the only "confirmation" of a theory is its agreement with observ- 
able facts. 

6. Unified Field Theory 

In his general theory of relativity Einstein had treated 
the force of gravity as due to a gravitational field. Matter gave 
rise to a gravitational field, which in turn acted on other ma- 
terial bodies to cause forces to act. Einstein had taken this force 
into account by means of curvature in space. A similar situa- 
tion existed for electrically charged particles. Forces act between 
them, and they could be taken into account by considering the 
electric charges to give rise to an electromagnetic field, which 
in turn produced forces on other charged particles. Thus matter 
and gravitational field were exactly analogous to electric charge 
and electromagnetic field. Consequently Einstein sought to 
build a theory of "unified field" which would be a generaliza- 
tion of his gravitational theory and would include all electro- 
magnetic phenomena. He also thought that in this way he 
might be able to obtain a more satisfactory theory of light quanta 
(photons) than Bohr's, and derive laws about "physical reality" 
instead of only laws about observational results, 


Development of Atomic Physics 

The great success of the geometrical method in the general 
theory of relativity naturally suggested to him the idea of de- 
veloping the new theory in the structure of four-dimensional 
space. In this case it must have still other characteristics besides 
the curvature which takes care of gravitational effects. 

The news that Einstein was working on a unified field theory 
became particularly widespread in 1929, the year of Einstein's 
fiftieth birthday. To the public at large it seemed to be an espe- 
cially attractive idea that on the very day on which he attained 
fifty years, a man should also find the magic formula by which 
all the puzzles of nature would finally be solved. Einstein re- 
ceived telegrams from newspapers and publishers in all parts of 
the world requesting that he acquaint them in a few words with 
the contents of his new theory. Hundreds of reporters beseiged 
his house. When some reporters were finally able to get hold of 
him, Einstein said with astonishment: "I really don't need any 
publicity," But everyone expected some new sensation that 
would surpass the wonder produced by his previous theories. 
They learned that a communication dealing with the new theory 
would be published in the transactions of the Prussian Academy 
of Science, and efforts were made by newspapers to secure 
galley proofs from the printer, but without success. There was 
nothing to do but to await the publication of the article, and in 
order not to be too late, an American newspaper arranged to 
have it sent immediately by phototelegraphy. 

The article was only a few pages long, but it consisted for 
the most part of mathematical formulae that were completely 
unintelligible to the public. The emotion with which it was re- 
ceived by the layman may be compared to that experienced at 
the sight of an Assyrian cuneiform inscription. For an under- 
standing of the paper a considerable capacity for abstract ge- 
ometrical thinking was required. To those who possessed this 
quality it revealed that general laws for a unified field could be 
derived from a certain hypothesis regarding the structure of 
four-dimensional space. It could also be shown that these laws 
included the known laws of the electromagnetic field as well 
as Einstein's law of gravitation as special cases. Nevertheless, 
as yet no result capable of experimental verification could be 
derived from them. Thus for the public at large the new theory 
was even more incomprehensible than the previous theories. 
For the expert it was an accomplishment of great logical and 
aesthetic perfection. 


X - 

I, Einstein's Fiftieth Birthday 

As the month of March in 1929 approached, Einstein 
and his family began to fear that the sensationalism of the news- 
papers would be so great on the date of his fiftieth birthday 
that it would only be disagreeable for Einstein. Many news- 
papers had undertaken to secure Einstein's own remarks on 
more or less personal matters and to publish them. Moreover, 
the visits and congratulations of his true admirers and friends 
threatened to assume such proportions that Einstein decided 
to avoid everything and to leave his apartment for several days. 
Immediately all sorts of rumors appeared: Einstein has gone to 
France, to Holland, to England, or even to America. But it was 
all greatly exaggerated. He spent the day peacefully near Berlin 
at the country estate of a shoe-polish manufacturer, who some- 
times put at Einstein's disposal a pavilion in his garden, situated 
very close to a beautiful lake. Here he was able to play the organ 
or to sail on the lake. 

From their apartment in Berlin Mrs. Einstein had brought 
along the dinner that had been prepared. Einstein's immediate 
family that is, his wife, her two daughters, and their hus- 
bands were present. Einstein was very comfortable and un- 
ceremonious, dressed in the garb he usually wore in the country, 
or even in the city when no strangers were present. This con- 
sisted of a pair of old trousers and a sweater, but no jacket, and 
very often also without shoes or stockings. From their city apart- 
ment Mrs. Einstein also brought along some of the congratula- 
tory letters and presents that had arrived in large numbers. 

Einstein was connected with many different activities, so that 
he received letters and gifts from all sorts of people; naturally, 
from physicists and philosophers, but also from pacifists and 
Zionists. There were even some from very simple people who 
were admirers of great discoveries and wanted to express this 
admiration. Among these was a gift from an unemployed man, 
consisting of a small package of pipe tobacco. It had become 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

generally known that Einstein was rarely to be found without a 
pipe. Alluding to the relativity theory and the field theory, the 
man wrote: "There is relatively little tobacco, but it is from a 
good field." 

Several of his friends had combined to present him with a 
new and very modern sailboat. Einstein loved to sail the beau- 
tiful lakes and rivers around Berlin, and to daydream while the 
boat flew before the wind. The handling of the sails was a 
pleasant activity. It was a very simple application of the rules 
of mechanics, and it gave him a great deal of pleasure to apply 
the physical laws that are closest to direct experience instead of 
those that are most abstract. He also wrote a popular article in 
which he explained to the lay public the physical laws that en- 
able one to travel in a certain direction by placing the sails in 
a certain position and to reach a particular goal by means of a 
zigzag motion that is, by successive tacks. 

A group of Zionists in America bought a plot of land in 
Palestine and planted it with trees on his birthday. They made 
provision that for all time to come the woods that grew there 
were to be known as the Einstein Grove. 

The most beautiful and interesting present, however, was to 
come from the municipal administration of the city of Berlin, 
where Einstein had lived since 1913, and which, to mention only 
a very trivial matter, he had helped to make a center of attrac- 
tion for all foreigners. Since it was generally known that Ein- 
stein was fond of sailing on the Havel River and on the many 
lakes into which this remarkable stream expands, the municipal 
council of Berlin decided to present Einstein with a small coun- 
try house situated on the bank of the Havel close to the point 
where it enters the Wannsee. The house was located on a plot 
belonging to the city of Berlin. This resolution on the part of 
the municipal council was well received by the entire popula- 
tion a sentiment arising from a combination of love of sci- 
ence, respect for an illustrious fellow citizen, and a fondness 
for aquatic sports and sailing. In all the illustrated magazines 
appeared pictures of the idyllic "Einstein house." 

When Mrs. Einstein wanted to see the house, she noticed 
to her amazement that people were living in it. The latter, in 
turn, were astonished to find someone wanting to take posses- 
sion of their home, even though it was the famous Einstein. 
It turned out that when the city of Berlin had acquired this 
property, it had guaranteed to the inhabitants of the house the 
right to keep on living there. The municipal council seemed 


Einstein; His Life and Times 

to have forgotten this when it gave its birthday present to Ein- 
stein. How can one explain such an occurrence in Berlin, the 
capital of Prussia, famous for its orderliness ? 

At first it seemed to indicate a considerable confusion in the 
registry of landed property. When the leaders of the municipal 
council heard about this mistake, they wanted to correct it as 
soon as possible. The park in which the frustrated "Einstein 
house" stood was large and filled with beautiful trees, and 
there was enough room in it for several houses. The council 
therefore chose another part of the park, very close to the water, 
and offered it to Einstein as a birthday present. The house, how- 
ever, was to be built at his own expense. Einstein and his wife 
were very happy about it and agreed to this arrangement. But 
on closer investigation it was found that this was also impos- 
sible. When the owner of the "Einstein house" received the 
right to live in it, he had also been assured that no other house 
would be built in the park that might in any way disturb his 
enjoyment of nature and his view over the lake. 

Finally the entire matter began to become unpleasant for 
both Einstein and the municipal council. A gift that came into 
being in this way could no longer give pleasure to anyone. 
Thus it became more and more of a mystery what was actually 
occurring in the famous model city of Berlin. 

But the matter was not yet at an end. After considerable re- 
flection the municipal council hit upon a third piece of land 
near the water. It was not nearly so well situated nor was it 
actually near the water. The neighbors, however, permitted at 
least a passage from the piece of land in question to the water. 
The gift became poorer and poorer. When it was finally dis- 
covered that the city had no right to dispose of this third plot 
of land, all Berlin burst out laughing. The laughter aimed at 
the municipal administration was justified, but Einstein was 
involved in the matter through no fault of his own. 

Now the council finally became aware that there was no land 
whatever at its disposal along the water. But since the mag- 
nificent gesture of presenting a gift to the Berlin scientist had 
already become public knowledge, the members of the council 
felt ashamed to let the entire matter turn into a fiasco. A delegate 
came to Einstein and said: "In order to be sure that the land 
we will present to you really belongs to us, please pick out a plot 
of land that suits you and is for sale. We will buy it." Einstein 
agreed. But since he did not like to occupy himself with choos- 
ing a piece of land, he let his wife go out to look. Finally she 


political l urmoil in Germany 

found a beautiful place in the village of Caputh, near Potsdam. 
The council agreed to the selection, and at the next session of 
the council a motion for the purchase of the land was presented. 
Thereupon the entire matter began to develop into a political 
dispute. A representative of the nationalist parties began to dis- 
cuss whether Einstein actually deserved such a gift. The subject 
was postponed to the next session. 

Then Einstein finally lost patience. The gift from his adopted 
city presented in the name of all the citizens had become an 
object of political strife, and under the most favorable circum- 
stances it would result from a political bargain. Einstein wrote 
a letter to the Mayor of Berlin, who later occupied a prominent 
place in the public eye when it became known that he had ac- 
cepted a gift of a fur coat for his wife from persons to whom 
he had given municipal contracts. Einstein wrote approximately 
as follows: "My dear Mr. Mayor: Human life is very short, 
while the authorities work very slowly. I feel therefore that 
my life is too short for me to adapt myself to your methods. 
I thank you for your friendly intentions. Now, however, my 
birthday is already past and I decline the gift." 

The result of the entire matter was that Einstein not only 
built the house at his own expense, but also had to buy the 
land with his own money. Some time after these events I was 
in Berlin and Mrs. Einstein said to me: "In this way, without 
wanting it, we have acquired a beautiful home of our own situ- 
ated in the woods near the water. But we have also spent most 
of our savings. Now we have no money, but we have our land 
and property. This gives one a much greater sense of security." 

This feeling was to be proved wrong, because hardly three 
years later Einstein and his wife had to leave the land and 
their beautiful villa with its new furnishings. This, however, 
is more a private matter. Much more interesting is the question 
of how this entire comedy of errors was possible in the orderly 
city of Berlin. The answer to this question is the answer to the 
whole problem of the German Republic. The city of Berlin was 
apparently headed by men who represented culture and who 
wished to express this position by honoring Einstein. The de- 
cisive power, however, lay in the hands of persons who sabo- 
taged the work of the apparent rulers. The officials of the city 
of Berlin carried out the orders of the municipal council in 
such a way as to result in failure and to make the republican 
administration look ridiculous. 

The situation was similar throughout the German Republic. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

The Chancellor and the government showed their admiration 
for art and science; but even at that time the real power already 
lay in the hands of the underworld. 

2. Visiting Professor at Pasadena 

In the following year, 1930, Einstein received an in- 
vitation to spend the winter in Pasadena, California, as visiting 
professor at the California Institute of Technology. Conse- 
quently in December he sailed for America. At this time his 
entire political interest was concentrated on pacifism, and he 
felt that this was also the great mission of the United States. 
While still on shipboard he broadcasted a message to America 
in which he said: 

"Greetings to America. This morning, after an absence of ten years, 
when I am once more about to set foot on the soil o the United States, 
the thought uppermost in my mind is this: This country has through 
hard labor achieved the position of undisputed pre-eminence among 
the nations of the world. ... It is in your country, my friends, that 
those latent forces which eventually will kill any serious monster of 
professional militarism will be able to make themselves felt more 
clearly and definitely. Your political and economic condition today 
is such that you will be able to destroy entirely the dreadful tradition 
of military violence. ... It is along these lines of endeavor that your 
mission lies at the present moment. . . ." 

Einstein was not of the opinion, however, that the United 
States could accomplish this mission by a policy of isolation. On 
March 29, 1931 he wrote: "In this country the conviction must 
grow that her citizens bear a great responsibility in the field of 
international politics. The role of passive spectator is not worthy 
of this country." Moreover, he always regarded America's in- 
tervention in world politics as an intervention in favor of peace. 
He quoted Benjamin Franklin, who had said: "There never was 
a bad peace or a good war." 

This time Einstein did not have to make such troublesome and 
disturbing trips throughout the entire country. Instead he was 
invited to take part in the scientific research that was being car- 
ried on at the California Institute of Technology and the Mount 
Wilson Observatory. Both institutions are situated near Pasa- 
dena, a quiet suburb of Los Angeles. Through the efforts of 
R. A. Millikan, the California Institute of Technology had be- 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

come a center of physical research. Millikan, a recipient of the 
Nobel prize, was originally a student of Michelson, and was 
consequently acquainted with the entire trend of Einstein's re- 
search from its experimental aspect. He has been a man possess- 
ing not only scientific, but also administrative ability, and he 
has always been a realist. Einstein's enthusiasm for pacifism al- 
ways appeared to him as something not suited to our world, 
and this opinion was to be proved correct only too soon. Milli- 
kan was in accord with Einstein on one point, however: neither 
of them denied the important role of religious communities in 
the advancement of human co-operation. But neither Millikan 
nor Einstein recognized any control over science by religious 

In the spring of 1931 Einstein returned to Berlin and in the 
fall went back again to Pasadena to spend another winter there. 
When he again returned to Berlin in the spring of 1932, he ar- 
rived just in time to witness the principal act in the death agony 
of the German Republic. 

In March 1932 a presidential election was to take place. The 
Imperial field marshal, the octogenarian Hindenburg, was the 
candidate of the Democrats and Socialists ; his chief opponent 
was Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Right-radical revolutionaries. 
Thanks to the propaganda of Reich Chancellor Briining, Hin- 
denburg won the election. The Republicans and Democrats 
were jubilant, but the truth was that now the power was in 
the hands of an adherent of the former German monarchy. Un- 
der the influence of his immediate environment, he used the 
power to overthrow the Republic. 

Hindenburg's first act after his election in May was to compel 
Briining, his most faithful champion and the man who had 
brought about his election, to resign as Chancellor. In his place 
he appointed Papen, a man who was resolved to rule with the 
support of bayonets and to eradicate every trace of republican- 
ism and democracy. He announced to the Reichstag that a 
"fundamentally new regime" was beginning, now that the pe- 
riod of "materialism" was at an end. With the aid of the Reichs- 
wehr, he deposed the Prussian government. 

Many scientists were happy at these developments. They be- 
lieved that now the reins were in the hands of the military. Since 
the time of Bismarck they had been accustomed to the belief 
that for Germany as a state and people, the rule of the "profes- 
sors" could only be harmful. The fall of the "intellectuals and 
democrats" would enable Germany to become great. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

I can still recall very well a conversation that I had with Ein- 
stein in the summer of 1932. We were at his country home in 
Caputh. It was a log house, constructed of sturdy beams, and 
we looked out through enormous windows on the idyllic forest 
landscape. When a professor who was present expressed the hope 
that a military regime might curb the Nazis, Einstein remarked: 
"I am convinced that a military regime will not prevent the im- 
minent National Socialist revolution. The military dictatorship 
will suppress the popular will and the people will seek protec- 
tion against the rule of the junkers and the officers in a Right- 
radical revolution. 3 ' 

Someone asked Einstein for his opinion of Schleicher, the 
"social general" who would perhaps soon seize power. "He will 
produce the same result as the present military dictatorship/' 
Einstein replied. 

During this summer Abraham Flexner, the famous American 
educator, came to Caputh to interest Einstein in his new research 
institute at Princeton. "For the time being," said Einstein, "I 
am still under obligation to spend the coining winter in Pasa- 
dena. Later, however, I shall be ready to work with you." 

When Einstein set out with his wife for California in the 
fall of 1932, and as they left the beautiful villa in idyllic Caputh, 
Einstein said to her: "Before you leave our villa this time, take 
a good look at it." 

"Why?" she asked. 

"You will never see it again," Einstein replied quietly. His 
wife thought he was being rather foolish. 

In December, Schleicher became Chancellor. He wanted to 
form a new government based on the working class, but the 
power of President Hindenburg was exerted against him. 
Schleicher was only a transitional phase. At the end of January 
1933, while Einstein was still in sunny California discussing 
with the astronomers of Mount Wilson Observatory the dis- 
tribution of matter in space and similar problems of the uni- 
verse, Schleicher resigned and President Hindenburg appointed 
Adolf Hitler, his opponent at the last presidential election, as 
Chancellor of the German Reich. 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

3. Racial Purging in German Universities 

Heretofore no aspect of Marxism had been so repug- 
nant to the German professors as the assertion that the evolu- 
tion of scientific knowledge is influenced by political power. 
Their highest ideal was always the complete independence of 
science from politics and the sharp separation of the two. But 
now the political power had come into the hands of Chancellor 
Hitler and his party whose foremost principle was the primacy of 
politics over all fields of human life; over science just as much 
as over economic life, art, and religion. 

The standpoint of the new government is understandable if 
one remembers that the new state not only appeared as a new 
political organization, but also claimed to represent a new phi- 
losophy and a new orientation in all fields of life. The new 
orientation was that every effort was to be directed toward the 
goal of serving the German people and the German race. This 
was the ultimate aim of science just as it was of any other 

This conviction that an entirely new Weltanschauung had 
to be taught at the universities led the government to put pres- 
sure on the university teachers. But since the freedom of science 
was one of the most favored slogans in the professorial world, 
the new government sought to introduce its goal by compul- 
sion while retaining the old mode of expression as far as pos- 
sible. The fine-sounding word "freedom" continued to be used, 
but it received a new meaning. The equivocal use of this word 
in earlier German philosophy had already prepared the ground 
for the National Socialist use. In an essay on "German Free- 
dom" written under the influence of the first World War, the 
American philosopher George Santayanahad already said: 

"Freedom in the mouth of German philosophy has a very special 
meaning. It does not refer to any possibility of choice nor any private 
initiative. German freedom is like the freedom of the angels in heaven 
who see the face of God and cannot sin. It lies in such a deep under- 
standing of what is actually established that you would not have it 
otherwise; you appropriate and bless it all and feel it to be the provi- 
dential expression of your own spirit. You are merged by sympathy 
with your work, your country and the universe, until you are no 
longer conscious of the least distinction between the Creator, the state 
and yourself. Your compulsory service then becomes perfect freedom." 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

A clear presentation of the practical application of this pro- 
found metaphysical theory was given by E. Krieck, German 
pedagogical leader at this period: 

"It is not science that must be restricted, hut rather the scientific in- 
vestigators and teachers; only scientifically talented men who have 
pledged their entire personality to the nation, to the racial conception 
of the world, and to the German mission will teach and carry on 
research at the German universities." 

Thus a philosophical foundation was provided for the "cleans- 
ing" of the faculties of the German universities. 

The first application of the new theories was in the eradica- 
tion of all teachers at institutions of higher learning who on the 
basis of their racial origin were not considered fit to train the 
youth in the spirit of the new philosophy. In this group were 
all those who did not belong to the Germanic or Nordic, or, 
as it was frequently called, the Aryan race. This grouping of 
non-German or non-Aryans was meant specifically for the Jews, 
since it was believed that because of their history and education 
they formed a group that would tend to hinder the training in 
the spirit of the new rulers. The term "Jews" included not only 
those who professed the Jewish religion. The new government 
assumed a standpoint of neutrality toward religion as such, 
What the National Socialists meant was the Jews as a race; but 
in this case there was no clear criterion by which to determine 
a racial Jew. Since such a definition was difficult to make and 
had to be arbitrary -in some degree, the conscientious and 
thorough German professors believed that no racial "cleans- 
ing" could take place. Without a neat and tidy definition the 
German government would be unable to do anything. 

But they were still unacquainted with the "pragmatic" spirit 
of the new philosophy. The definitions that were needed were 
produced with the greatest speed, even though they did not 
satisfy the requirements of the German professors with respect 
to anthropological, ethnological, or philological accuracy, or 
even logical consistency. From the very beginning it was obvious 
that there was no scientific definition of an "Aryan/' except 
that he was a person who spoke a language belonging to the 
"Aryan linguistic family." Such a definition, however, was im- 
possible; otherwise everyone who spoke Yiddish, which is bas- 
ically a German dialect, would be an Aryan. Thus from the 
beginning it was not the "Aryan," but rather the "non- Aryan" 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

who was defined. The definition of a non-Aryan included ev- 
eryone who had at least one non-Aryan grandparent. The grand- 
parents, however, were defined as non-Aryan if they professed 
the Jewish religion; they were defined, that is, in terms of a 
criterion that has nothing to do with race in the ethnological 
sense. It was simply taken for granted that two generations 
earlier there were no persons of Jewish origin who professed 
the Christian religion. 

This cunning combination of definitions on the basis of origin 
and religion achieved the intended political purpose: namely, 
to exclude an entire group of people that it was feared could 
exert a dangerous political or ideological influence on the stu- 
dents. The definition, however, was not characterized by the 
scientific clarity and precision that the professors required. Quite 
a few would have been ready to co-operate in carrying out a polit- 
ical purge of the universities, but it would have to be done in a 
scientifically unobjectionable manner. 

The attempt to exclude the Jews everywhere, but to talk only 
of non-Aryans, gave rise to many difficulties. According to the 
customary meaning and usage of the word "Aryan" prior to 
the advent of the Nazis, there were other non-Aryans besides the 
Jews. At first rather unpleasant sensations were aroused by the 
idea that such peoples as Hungarians and Finns, who were very 
popular with the National Socialists, were to be branded as non- 
Aryans. On the other hand, one could not very well call a Hun- 
garian an Aryan. Consequently, it was decided that a non- Aryan 
status is determined by means of the official definition using the 
religion of the grandparents. Nevertheless, even if anyone a 
Hungarian, for instance can prove that he is not a non-Aryan, 
it does not follow that he is an Aryan, Thus one of the funda- 
mental rules of ordinary logic was dropped: namely, the prin- 
ciple of the excluded middle, which says that a thing either has 
or does not have a certain characteristic; there is no other pos- 
sibility. According to the new official mode of expression, how- 
ever, a Hungarian was neither a non- Aryan nor an Aryan. 

As the new regime achieved political successes the number of 
people who were neither Aryans nor non-Aryans grew ever 
greater. The Japanese were soon the outstanding members of 
this group. Finally, however, when their anti-British policy led 
the National Socialists to seek the friendship of the "Semitic" 
Arabs, the latter were also included among the "non-non-Ary- 
ans." Previously the Jews had been opposed because, it was said, 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

they belonged to the "Semitic" race. Now, however, with the 
inclusion of this race among the noble races, it was asserted that 
the Jews did not belong to any race at all, but instead formed a 
mongrel "anti-race." 

But since a criterion of race that was not based on a religious 
confession was still wanted, it was finally decided to consider 
as related to the German race every other race that lived in 
"compact settlements" and not, like the Jews, scattered in sep- 
arate cities and commercial centers. 

The definition that had been so anxiously awaited was thus 
successful, and the universities were thoroughly purged accord- 
ing to this pattern. At first there were still several exceptions. 
All those professors were retained who had been appointed by 
the Imperial German government and not by the Republic, be- 
cause it was assumed that the latter had favored the Jews. Fur- 
thermore, all those were allowed to remain who had fought 
for Germany or her allies in the World War of 1914-18. 

In time, however, all these exceptions were dropped and the 
purge became more rigorous. Soon a further step was taken, 
and all teachers were dismissed whose wives were non-Aryans 
according to the official definition. 

The "racial" purge was accompanied by a simultaneous po- 
litical purge. But the principles upon which it was based were 
much less distinct. The professors who were dismissed included 
all those who had taken an active part in the work of the Social 
Democratic and Communist parties, or who had belonged to the 
Freemasons or to a pacifist organization. All other principles 
were vague. This purge was even more baffling than the racial 
one, since in the latter case the individual's fate was predestined 
and he could do little to improve it. On the other hand, by 
means of good behavior anyone could hope to make good any 
previous political sins. Thus many professors who were formerly 
known as "democrats" now began to express in a very obtrusive 
manner their sympathy with the racial purge and with other 
catchwords of the ruling party. Or one saw such democratic 
sinners engaged in studying the application of the race theory 
to such fields as mathematics, chemistry, and so forth. On the 
other hand, many former supporters of the old nationalist and 
monarchist groups assumed an attitude of reserve toward the 
new masters. Actually some of those who had been victims of 
the first political purge were later reinstated after they had 
shown signs of "improvement." 

In order to make the change even more thorough, advantage 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

was taken of this opportunity to pension off, because of age, 
many older professors who were not suspect on either racial or 
political grounds. It was believed that they would be unable to 
adapt themselves to the new regime. As a result of all these 
measures it was possible to appoint many new teachers whom 
the government considered reliable and who it was believed 
would teach in the light of the new philosophy. 

4. Hostility toward Einstein 

When the purge began, Einstein was fortunately not 
in Germany. It was immediately evident, however, that the 
hostility of the new rulers to certain scientific groups was con- 
centrated to an astonishing and even frightening degree against 
Einstein. Just as the general enthusiasm for Einstein's theory is 
an amazing phenomenon in the history of science, so the perse- 
cution of a man who advanced such abstract theories is likewise 
very puzzling. 

His opponents may have said: "He is a Jew and became 
world-renowned as a creator of new ideas. This is not in accord 
with the views of the new rulers on the intellectual sterility of 
the Jewish race. He is a pacifist and sympathizes with the ef- 
forts for international co-operation." Nevertheless, this does not 
suffice to explain the intensity of the antagonism to Einstein. 
Here as well as in the growth of his fame a process of crystalliza- 
tion was involved. Hate is added to hate, and fame to fame, just 
as new crystals arise by forming around already existing crystals. 

This development finally reached a point where the National 
Socialists believed that Einstein was the chief of a secret move- 
ment, sometimes described as "communistic," sometimes as the 
"Jewish International/' which was working against the new 

Actually Einstein has always steered clear of actual politics. 
The National Socialists, however, not only set about to attack 
Einstein's purely theoretical remarks on politics, which were in 
general academic, but they also tried to show that there was 
something "Bolshevistic" and "Jewish" about his theories. 

As we have seen, the modest beginnings of these attacks were 
already evident at the end of the war in 1918. Now, however, 
the leaders of the campaign against Einstein felt that their time 
had come. Now they could come out into the open with their 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

sincere opinions, while Einstein's defenders were no longer al- 
lowed to reply to them. Thus in May 1933 Lenard, Einstein's 
old enemy, published an article in the Volfysche Beobachter, the 
chief organ of the National Socialist Party. Here Lenard could 
finally speak without having to restrain himself in any way: 

"The most important example of the dangerous influence of Jew- 
ish circles on the study of nature has been provided by Herr Einstein 
with his mathematically botched-up theories consisting of some an- 
cient knowledge and a few arbitrary additions. This theory now 
gradually falls to pieces, as is the fate of all products that are estranged 
from nature. Even scientists who have otherwise done solid work 
cannot escape the reproach that they allowed the relativity theory to 
get a foothold in Germany, because they did not see, or did not want 
to see, how wrong it is, outside the field of science also, to regard this 
Jew as a good German. 5 ' 

Two years later this same Lenard delivered an inaugural ad- 
dress at the opening of a new physics institute in which he said: 

"I hope that the institute may stand as a battle flag against the 
Asiatic spirit in science. Our Fiihrer has eliminated this same spirit 
in politics and national economy, where it is known as Marxism. In 
natural science, however, with the overemphasis on Einstein, it still 
holds sway. We must recognize that it is unworthy of a German to 
be the intellectual follower of a Jew. Natural science, properly so 
called, is of completely Aryan origin, and Germans must today also 
find their own way out into the unknown. Heil Hitler! 3 

Proof that Einstein's research was characteristically "Jewish" 
was obtained by producing a definition of "Jewish physics" that 
contained all the characteristic features of Einsteinian physics. 
Thus it was regarded as particularly "Jewish" if a theory was 
very "abstract"; that is, if it was connected with the imme- 
diate sensory observations only by long trains of thought and 
did not lead to immediate technical applications. All this was 
now considered "Jewish." It had been completely forgotten that 
innumerable adherents of the Nordic doctrine had proved that 
the Aryan spirit hovers in the heaven of speculation, while the 
"non-Aryan" is at home in the material world which is the only 
one that he comprehends with his "inferior mind." 

The demand that science occupy itself with immediate prac- 
tical necessities is not uncommon in a new regime that must 
develop the resources of a country as rapidly as possible, whether 
it be for a policy of conquest or reconstruction. We find similar 
features at the beginning of the Soviet regime in Russia. 

In 1934 Hermann Goring, the second leading Nazi, said: 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

"We honor and respect science; but it must not become an end in 
itself and degenerate into intellectual arrogance. Right now our 
scientists have a fertile field. They should find out how this or that 
raw material that we must import from abroad can be replaced equally 
well at home." 

And the Minister of Education Bernhard Rust said briefly and 
succinctly: "National Socialism is not an enemy of science, but 
only of theories." 

Herewith not only Einstein himself, but actually an entire 
science, theoretical physics, was condemned. At about this time 
an outstanding representative of this science in Germany who 
had been spared in the purge remarked to me jokingly: "You 
must know that Einstein has compromised our entire science." 

Only a few years previously the German physicist Wilhelm 
Wien, who was rather sympathetic toward German nationalism, 
in a conversation with the great English physicist Ernest Ruth- 
erford, had said: "The relativity theory is something that you 
Anglo-Saxons will never understand, because it requires a gen- 
uine German feeling for abstract speculation." And the national- 
istic French physicist Bouasse said: "The French spirit with its 
desire for Latin lucidity will never understand the theory of 
relativity. It is a product of the Teutonic tendency to mystical 

As I have said, when the great purge began, Einstein was 
still in America. Upon learning of the events in Germany he 
went to New York and communicated with the German consul. 
In accordance with his official duty the latter told Einstein that 
he need have no fear to return to Germany. A "national" gov- 
ernment was now in power there, which would do justice to 
all. If he was innocent, nothing would happen to him. Ein- 
stein had decided, however, not to return to Germany so long 
as the existing regime remained in power ; and he said so quite 
openly at the consulate. After the official conversation was at 
an end, the consul's deputy said to him privately: "Herr Profes- 
sor, now that we are speaking as man to man, I can only tell 
you that you are doing the right thing." 

Numerous reporters wanted to hear Einstein's opinion on the 
recent events in Germany. But he repeated what he had always 
said: he had no desire to live in a state where freedom of ex- 
pression did not exist and in which racial and religious intoler- 
ance prevailed. He did not enter into any concrete discussions, 

He sailed for Europe, and in the spring of 1933 took up his 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

residence in the Belgian sea resort Le Cocque, not far from Os- 
tend. From the beginning he knew that his connection with the 
Prussian Academy must cease. The only question was whether 
he should resign of his own accord or wait until the Academy 
expelled him. The leading person in the Academy at this time 
was Max Planck, the man who had first "discovered" Einstein, 
who had declared him to be the Copernicus of the twentieth 
century, and who, despite all conflicts, had supported him all 
the time that he was in Berlin. One can imagine that this man 
did not want to exclude Einstein from the Academy. And in 
turn, Einstein wanted to spare him this unpleasant step. He 
wrote briefly and to the point that under the present government 
he could no longer serve the Prussian state and therefore resigned 
his position. 

At first the Academy beat about the bush, and there were 
great discussions about what should be done. On one hand was 
the desire to retain the reputation of the Academy as an im- 
partial scientific body, on the other the desire to avow the idea 
of the national government. Nernst, who was always some- 
thing of a liberal, said at one session: "Why should one demand 
of a member of the Academy, who is a great mathematician, that 
he should also be a nationally minded German? Were not 
d'Alembert, Maupertuis, and Voltaire members of our Acad- 
emy, of whom we are proud even today? And these men, more- 
over, were Frenchmen." He repeated over and over again, when 
he met an academician: "How will posterity judge our Acad- 
emy? Won't we be regarded as cowards who yielded to force?" 

But since the newspapers of the ruling party were already full 
of attacks against Einstein and accused him of agitating against 
his own country abroad, the Academy finally decided to publish 
a statement, characterized by a certain dolefulness, in which 
they denied having any connection with Einstein. "We have 
no reason to regret Einstein's resignation," it said. "The Acad- 
emy is aghast at his agitational activities abroad. Its members 
have always felt in themselves a profound loyalty to the Prussian 
state. Even though they have kept apart from all party politics, 
yet they have always emphasized their loyalty to the national 

Einstein who was unaware that he had been actively en- 
gaged in agitation abroad, answered the Academy in a letter 
on April 5: 

"I am not aware that I have spread so-called 'atrocity stories* about 
Germany abroad. And, to be honest, I have not ever noticed that any 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

'atrocity reports' were being circulated. What I have noticed is that 
the statements made by members of the new German government 
have been repeated and commented upon, especially the program 
for the destruction of the German Jews. ... I hope that the Academy 
will transmit this letter to its members and will also do its part to 
spread it among the German public; because I have been libeled in 
the press, and the Academy by its communications to the newspapers 
has assisted this libel." 

Since the Academy could no longer assert that Einstein had 
invented "atrocity stories" and spread them abroad, it retreated 
to the statement that while Einstein had not invented any stories, 
yet he had made no effort to oppose energetically those that 
were in circulation and to defend his fatherland. 

On April 7 the Academy wrote to Einstein approximately as 

"We have awaited with confidence for a man like you, who was 
for so long a member of our Academy., to range himself at the side 
of our nation and without regard for his political sympathies to 
oppose the flood of lies that has been let loose against us. In these days 
when filth is hurled at the German nation, partly in a common, partly 
in a ridiculous manner, a kind word for Germany from the mouth 
of such a famous man as you would have had a great effect abroad. 

"Instead, your remarks were still another instrument for the ene- 
mies not only of the present German government, but also of the 
entire German people. This was a bitter disappointment to us. It 
would have led to a parting of our ways under any circumstances, 
even if we had not received your resignation." 

Einstein now saw that a continuation of the correspondence 
would have no further purpose. On April 12 lie wrote a fare- 
well letter to the Academy, with which he was linked by so 
much work in common. In it he said: 

"You write that a kind word on my part concerning the German 
people would have had a great effect abroad. To this I must reply 
that such a 'kind word' would have been a denial of every concept 
of justice and freedom for which I have fought all my life. Such 
testimony would not have been, as you put it, a 'kind word' for the 
German people. On the contrary, such a statement would only have 
helped to undermine the ideas and principles by means of which the 
German people have acquired an honorable place in the civilized 
world. By such a testimony I would have contributed, even though 
indirectly, to the barbarization of morals and the destruction of cul- 
tural values. 

"Your letter shows me only how right I was to resign my position 
at the Academy." 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Einstein had voluntarily resigned from his position at the 
Academy in order to spare a man like Max Planck the painful 
and shameful act of expelling from the Academy at the behest 
of a political party a man whom he himself regarded as one of 
its most valuable members. Max Planck was one of the German 
professors who repeatedly asserted that the new rulers were 
pursuing a great and noble aim. We scientists, who do not under- 
stand politics, ought not to make any difficulties for them. It is 
our task to see to it that as far as is possible individual scientists 
suffer as few hardships as possible., and above all we should do 
everything in our power to maintain the high level of science in 
Germany. At least envious foreigners should not notice that a 
lowering of the level is taking place anywhere in our country. 

The idea that the many brutalities practiced upon individuals 
and institutions were only temporary attendant phenomena of 
the "revolution from the Right" was widespread among men of 
Planck's type. One of the outstanding scientists of the University 
of Berlin approached Planck and told him that he would like to 
leave Berlin immediately and look about for a place to work 
abroad. He felt that one day he would become a victim of a later 
purge. To this Planck replied: "But, my dear colleague, what 
strange ideas you have! If you do not find present conditions at 
the universities congenial, why don't you take a leave of absence 
for a year? Take a pleasant trip abroad and carry on some 
studies. And when you return all the unpleasant features of our 
present government will have disappeared." 

At the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, of which he was president, 
Planck likewise endeavored to retain non-Aryan scientists in 
their positions. He believed that in this way he would be able 
to prevent those people whom he valued from suffering hard- 
ships. As a result the research work of the institute and the fame 
of German science would, he hoped, remain undamaged. 

He was helped by the circumstance that non-Aryans were 
tolerated somewhat longer in the field of research than in the 
teaching profession. Thus Planck succeeded in retaining sev- 
eral of these research workers even after the general purge in 
Berlin. But when the purge finally did hit them, they were in 
a particularly poor situation. It was more difficult for them to 
leave Germany and to find positions abroad. 

Planck once tried by personal intervention to convince Adolf 
Hitler that the mechanical application of his "non-Aryan de- 
finition" to the organization of education and research would 

Political Turmoil in Germany 

have an unfavorable effect. Planck's meeting with Hitler was 
the subject of much discussion in Berlin university circles at 
this time. Planck had but little opportunity to present his argu- 
ments. The Fiihrer spoke to him in an argumentative manner 
as if he were spreading agitational propaganda at a mass meet- 
ing, and not as one speaks to a single visitor in an office. Among 
other things, Hitler said that he would give the Jews some op- 
portunity to work if they were not all Bolsheviks. When Planck 
timidly objected that this certainly did not apply to a man like 
Haber, Hitler said: "Believe me. Those that are not Bolsheviks 
openly are so in secret." Furthermore said the Fiihrer decisively: 
"Do not think that I have such weak nerves as to let myself be 
diverted from my great goal by such petty considerations. Ev- 
erything will be carried out to the last letter." 

As we have seen, Einstein had spared the Prussian Academy 
the embarrassment of having to throw him out, but he did re- 
ceive an official letter from the Bavarian Academy of Science 
informing him that he was expelled from its ranks. 

Einstein's villa at Caputh was searched by the political police. 
It was believed that the Communist Party had hidden stores of 
arms there. Such accusations were a result of the fantastic ideas 
regarding Einstein's role as a political leader or conspirator. 

Einstein's possessions, his villa as well as his bank account, 
were all confiscated by the state. In the announcement of this 
act that he received from the political police the reason given 
was: "The property was obviously going to be used to finance a 
Communist revolt." The "gift" of the city of Berlin had led him 
to use the greatest part of his savings to build his villa, which was 
now confiscated, and Einstein had but little left of all his prop- 
erty. Simultaneously it became evident that by adopting Ger- 
man citizenship as a sign of sympathy for the German Repub- 
lic he had acted to his own disadvantage, since as a foreigner 
(Swiss) he would have been protected against the confiscation 
of his property. 

Einstein's writings on the relativity theory were burned pub- 
licly in the square before the State Opera House in Berlin, to- 
gether with other books, some of which were regarded as ob- 
scene, others as Bolshevistic. For some time there was even a 
regulation according to which all books written by Jews were 
to be marked "translated from the Hebrew." This was intended 
to express that they were only apparently written in German. At 
that time there was still an occasional professor of physics in 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Germany who while lecturing on the relativity theory permitted 
himself the joking remark: "It is a mistake to believe that Ein- 
stein's original paper was translated from the Hebrew." 

As was to be expected, some of Einstein's scientific opponents 
took advantage of the new regime's hostility toward him to 
prevent as far as possible the teaching of Einstein's theories at 
the German universities. Among these opponents, in addition to 
the aforementioned Lenard, was another well-known physicist 
named Johannes Stark. He had made some outstanding experi- 
mental discoveries, for which, like Lenard, he had received the 
Nobel prize. But he was just as incapable as Lenard of com- 
prehending a complex theoretical structure. Like Lenard he 
advocated the view that there was something "un-German" in 
the predominance of theory over sensory observation and it 
must therefore be eradicated from the teaching in the German 
schools. Stark also found an explanation for the fact that so 
many German physicists accepted the relativity theory even 
though it was repugnant to the German spirit. He explained it 
as resulting from the circumstance that so many physicists had 
Jewish wives. 

This use of political power to compel the acceptance of one 
view in the field of science aroused great concern among the 
German physicists. One of the leading physicists said to me at 
that time: "It is fortunate for us that Lenard and Stark are no 
longer young. If they still had their youthful Man they would 
command what should be taught as physics. 55 

Nevertheless, not everything was carried out as radically as 
Einstein's opponents wanted it. The National Socialist Party 
even adopted a resolution stating that no physical theory could 
claim to be "genuinely National Socialistic." Thus Einstein's 
theory was not completely eradicated in the German univer- 
sities. It depended on the courage of the individual teacher. 
Some taught the theory without mentioning Einstein's name, 
others dropped the name "relativity theory." Others went still 
further; they taught the individual facts that followed from this 
theory as facts of experience, but they omitted completely the 
logical connection of these points by the theory. No physicist 
could dispense with these important facts, such as the relation 
between mass and energy or between mass and velocity. 

Most of the German physicists were at their wits' end think- 
ing up ways of protecting themselves from the continual inter- 
ference in their science by the political physicists such as Lenard, 
and some of them hit upon an idea that despite the seriousness 

Political Turmoil in Germany 

of the situation had something comical about it They thought 
that there was only one way to shake Lenard's prestige with 
the new authorities, and that was to prove that he was a non- 
Aryan. This seemed a plausible possibility, as Lenard's father 
had conducted a brokerage business in Pressburg (Bratislava), 
the capital of modern Slovakia. Since many of the inhabitants of 
this city were Jewish and the brokerage business was regarded 
as a Jewish occupation, there was some hope that this might be 
true. As I was then teaching in Czechoslovakia, to which Press- 
burg belonged at that time, I repeatedly received direct requests 
from some of the outstanding German physicists to institute 
inquiries in^ Pressburg regarding Lenard's four grandparents. 
I must admit that my interests did not lie in the field of gene- 
alogical research. I turned the Investigation over to a friend in 
Pressburg, but he too was not very zealous. The researches did 
not go beyond Lenard's parents. It was possible to determine 
that they did not profess the Jewish religion. 

Nevertheless, the zeal with which the German physicists had 
to pursue such problems in the interest of their science is a sign 
of this peculiar period. 

5. Last Wee\s in Europe 

Einstein passed the last weeks of his European resi- 
dence in a villa that lay hidden among the great sand dunes of 
Le Cocque sur Mer, a beautiful bathing resort in Belgium. Round 
about, children built large castles of sand and women prome- 
naded in attractive Parisian-model bathing suits. Einstein was 
in a peculiar situation. He had not returned to Germany, and 
his friends there warned him that he would certainly be ar- 
rested or perhaps murdered if he showed up in that country. 

Le Cocque, however, was not very far from Germany. Many 
feared that fanatics would be able to slip across the border and 
"liquidate" him. If they fled to Germany after committing such 
an act, they would not have to fear any punishment, since the 
deed would have been committed "with the best of intentions." 
There were several precedents for such actions. It was even 
rumored that a high price had been set on Einstein's head; 
but it is manifestly difficult to check the correctness of such 

Einstein had good friends in Belgium. The Abbe Lemaitre, 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

a Catholic priest, had found that Einstein's equations of the 
gravitational field in universal space were also consistent with 
a distribution of matter in the universe which did not always 
remain the same on the average. Hence, the Abbe could as- 
sume that the various galaxies move farther and farther away 
from one another. He thus founded the theory of the expand- 
ing universe, which had been adumbrated in connection with 
Einstein's theories by Friedmann, a Soviet Russian mathema- 
tician more than a decade earlier. It first received attention 
through Lemaitre and still more through Eddington, and was 
supported by astronomical observations. As Abbe Lemaitre was 
one of the glories of Belgian science, the Queen of Belgium 
likewise became interested in Einstein's theories and on various 
occasions took pleasure in conversing with him. 

The Belgian royal family and the Belgian government were 
very much concerned about the rumors that assassins might 
come to Belgium and threaten Einstein. It was therefore ar- 
ranged for two bodyguards to watch Einstein day and night. 
Naturally this was rather annoying for him. In the first place 
it was unpleasant for a kind-hearted person like Einstein to 
keep his two shadows too busy, and secondly, for a bohemian 
like Einstein it was very annoying to be under constant "police 
supervision." The Belgian government, however, had no desire 
to be responsible for any accidents. 

In the summer of 1933, while passing through Ostend in the 
course of a trip from London to the Continent, I remembered 
that Einstein was living near by and decided to try to find him 
there. I did not know his address, but I took a chance and went 
to Le Cocque, where I inquired of the inhabitants whether they 
knew where Einstein was living. As I later learned, the author- 
ities had given strict orders to the inhabitants not to give any 
information to anyone about Einstein's residence. Since I knew 
nothing of all these precautions, I asked very naively and in 
time received with equal naivete all the information that I 

Finally, I came to a villa in the midst of the dunes and saw 
Mrs. Einstein sitting on the veranda, whereupon I knew I had 
reached my goal. From the distance I saw two rather robust 
men in a very excited conversation with Mrs. Einstein, I was 
rather surprised at these visitors, as one was accustomed to see- 
ing only scientists, writers, and artists with the Einsteins. I ap- 
proached closer to the villa. As soon as the two men saw me, 
they threw themselves at me and seized me. Mrs. Einstein 


Political Tunnoil in Germany 

jumped up, her face frightened and chalky white. Finally she 
recognized me and said: "They suspected you of being the ru- 
mored assassin," She reassured the detectives and led me into 
the house. 

After a while Einstein himself came downstairs. In the mean- 
time Mrs. Einstein had asked me how I had found the house* 
I replied that the people in the neighborhood had pointed it 
out to me. But that was strictly prohibited, she said. Einstein 
himself laughed heartily at the failure of the measures taken by 
the police for his protection. 

At this time his mind was still much occupied by his cor- 
respondence with the Academy in Berlin. He showed me all 
the letters and commented on the parts played by the various 
persons concerned in the matter. He spoke at some length about 
the personality of Max Planck. "And finally," he said, "to get rid 
of my annoyance I composed several humorous verses. I put 
all the letters in a folder and on top of them the verses. They 
began with these lines : 

Thank you for your note so tender ; 
'Tis typically German, like its sender." 

There was something genuinely artistic in Einstein's nature. 
It recalled to mind the passage in Goethe's autobiography where 
he relates that he rid himself of every mental vexation by re- 
enacting it artistically. Einstein in such cases played a short but 
vigorous composition on the violin or composed a few humor- 
ous verses. Even though they did not attain the classical level 
of Goethe's Faust, yet psychologically they fulfilled the same 
function equally well 

On this occasion Einstein repeatedly emphasized that in get- 
ting rid of his Berlin environment he also experienced in a cer- 
tain respect a psychological liberation. Mrs. Einstein, who was 
present at this conversation, was not very much in sympathy 
with such statements. Emotionally she had a strong feeling of 
attachment to Germany. She said: "But you should not be so un- 
just. You had many happy hours in Berlin, too. For instance^ 
you often said to me after coming home from the physics 
colloquium that such a gathering of outstanding physicists is not 
to be found anywhere else in the world at the present day." 

"Yes," said Einstein, "from a purely scientific point of view 
life in Berlin was often really very nice. Nevertheless, I always 
had a feeling as if something was pressing on me, and I always 
had a presentiment that the end would not be good." 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

We then spoke about the prediction that he had made to me 
in Prague about eleven years previously, before his first trip to 
America. The catastrophe in Germany had actually occurred at 
approximately the time that he had anticipated. 

"Do you know/' said Einstein, "I have recently had a very 
remarkable experience. You probably remember my friend and 
colleague Fritz Haber, the famous chemist." The reader will 
recall that he belonged to Einstein's intimate circle in Berlin. 
He had always urged Einstein to adapt himself to the thought 
of German nationalists, and himself had advanced rather far 
in this direction. "I recently received a letter from Fritz Haber," 
related Einstein, "in which he informs me of his intention to 
apply for a position at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. 
There you have it, the whole world is topsyturvy." 

We talked a great deal about this university to whose found- 
ing Einstein had contributed so much. Now that Einstein had 
become available, the university in Jerusalem made every ef- 
fort to obtain his services. But he was not much inclined to ac- 
cept. He did not like the idea that in this period which was so 
critical for the Jewish people, the university endeavored chiefly 
to obtain certain professors who were already famous, in order 
to increase its prestige. At a time when the future of so many 
young Jewish scholars was endangered, he felt that this uni- 
versity should rather pick out the most capable of these younger 
men and enable them to teach and to carry on research. For 
these reasons Einstein also advised the famous Haber not to go 
to Jerusalem. 

We discussed the fantastic ideas regarding Einstein as a poli- 
tician that were current among the ruling circles in Germany. 
Mrs. Einstein related an incident that had occurred recently. 
They had received a German letter from an unknown man in 
which he urgently demanded that Einstein receive him. Since 
no unknown person was permitted to come near him for fear 
of an assassination, Mrs. Einstein refused. Upon repeated in- 
sistence that the matter was very important, Mrs. Einstein fi- 
nally declared herself ready to see this man in the absence of 
her husband. The man actually came and related that he had 
been a member of the Nazi Storm Troops (S.A.). He had fallen 
out with the party and was now opposed to it. He knew all 
the secrets of the party and wanted to sell them to its opponents 
for fifty thousand francs. He wanted to find out whether Ein- 
stein would spend the money for this information. "Why do 
you assume/' asked Mrs. Einstein, "that Professor Einstein is 


Political Tmmoil in Ger?nmy 

Interested in the secrets of your former party ?" "Oh," replied the 
ex-S.A. man, "we all know very well that Professor Einstein 
is the leader of the opposing party throughout the entire world, 
and that such a purchase would therefore be very important for 
him." Mrs. Einstein explained to the man that he was mistaken 
and that Einstein was not interested in these secrets,, no matter 
whether they were genuine or spurious. 

Nevertheless, the occurrence left a very uncomfortable feel- 
ing. It was now definitely known that the National Socialist 
Party, which at that time was already one of the most powerful 
factors in the world, regarded Einstein as a leader of its op- 
ponents. All sorts of unpleasant surprises had to be expected. 

6, Einstein's Views on Military Service 

Germany's revolution from the Right made it evident 
to the small neighboring states that the time had come when 
Germany would break the bonds of the Versailles Treaty, if 
necessary by force. To any intelligent person acquainted with 
the lessons of history it was obvious that Germany would not 
stop with the eradication of the "injustice of Versailles," but 
would take advantage of the opportunity to obtain something 
more for herself in order to realize her old dream of a "living 
space." The war of 1914-18 had made it evident to the Belgians 
that the German politicians included Belgium within this liv- 
ing space. As early as 1933, at about the time that Einstein came 
to Belgium, this realization aroused a feeling of insecurity in 
many persons. 

On the other hand, in Belgium as elsewhere at this time, espe- 
cially among the youth, the view was firmly rooted that all wars 
are organized by the capitalist class to suppress the workers. 
Therefore every socially minded and progressive young person 
should refrain from supporting war in any way. But even then 
it was already evident to many Belgians that absolute opposi- 
tion to every war would make the country an easy prey for its 
neighbors, who preached that war is the most important instru- 
ment of politics. Thus radically minded youth was faced by 
this problem: should the propaganda against military service 
and military preparedness be continue^, thus rendering easier 
an invasion by warlike neighbors, or should one take part in 
the defense of the fatherland, thereby following a slogan that 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

had previously been regarded as a pretext of the exploiters In 
their fight against their own workers ? A group of representa- 
tives of Belgian pacifist youth turned to Einstein for his opin- 
ion in this matter of conscience, since he was widely known as 
a radical champion of the movement against war and military 
service. As late as the spring of 1931 he had greeted with de- 
light and affirmation a manifesto issued by American clergymen 
in which they announced that they would take no part in any 
future wars, even though their own government claimed that 
it was for the defense of their country. Einstein had written as 
follows, referring to this statement: 

"It is a gratifying revelation of the temper of the American clergy 
that fifty-four per cent o those who answered the questionnaire 
should have indicated their purpose not to participate in any future 
war. Only such a radical position can be of help to the world, since 
the government of each nation is bound to present every war as a war 
of defense." 

But when the young Belgians turned to Einstein with the 
question whether they should refuse to co-operate if Belgium 
became involved in a war against its big neighbors, Einstein 
did not let himself be confused for a moment. From the very 
first he knew that he had to answer in such a way as to en- 
courage the course of action that he considered advisable under 
the given circumstances. He did not allow himself to be con- 
fused by the vain idea of standing forth as one who sticks to 
his principles under all circumstances. Such a person would in- 
sist on his principles even though they should lead to actions 
and results with which he was not in sympathy. Einstein was 
aware that the purpose of principles In both public and private 
life is only to encourage actions that produce results which one 
would approve. Principles, however, are not to be considered 
as ends in themselves. He answered briefly and concisely: in this 
case everyone should fight as best he can for the freedom of 
his fatherland, Belgium. 

This answer created a sensation at the time. Many persons 
even doubted its genuineness. Many said: "Surely a principle 
does not become false because in a single case it leads to con- 
sequences that are repugnant, as for instance in this case to a 
triumph of National Socialism." 

The people who expected that Einstein would stick to his 
principles without any consideration of the consequences did 
not understand the fundamentally positivistic, pragmatic char- 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

acter of his thought. Basically he thought in politics just as he 
did in physics. When he actually came to grips with a concrete 
problem, the positivistic basis of his thinking became evident. 
He did not believe that principles have any meaning except 
their consequences, which we can test on the basis of our ex- 
periences. Occasionally, he liked to think about the emotional 
effect brought about by the wording of the principles. As a re- 
sult his language in physics as well as in politics in some cases 
acquired a metaphysical touch. But this was only a more or less 
poetical way of speaking, which furnished a point of contact 
with human feeling. 

Basically his position was always clear: he would never sup- 
port principles because of their beautiful sound, if they led to 
consequences which he could not approve. 

For this reason the attacks on Einstein by those who opposed 
war on principle were of the same character as those of some 
of his opponents in physics who attacked him with the reproach 
that he had first advanced the principle of the constancy of the 
velocity of light in the special relativity theory of 1905, and had 
then abandoned it in his theory of gravitation, since according to 
the latter the velocity with which light is propagated depends 
on the intensity of the gravitational field. Some of Einstein's op- 
ponents accused him of being inconsistent and of trying to hide 
this inconsistency. This description, however, is somewhat mis- 
leading. The constancy of the velocity of light is true only under 
very specific conditions namely, when strong gravitational 
fields are not present. By enumerating the restrictions under 
which a certain principle is valid, one is not being inconsistent, 
but only adding to our knowledge of the world. 

The same is true of Einstein's attitude to the question of mili- 
tary service. At that time I had no opportunity to discuss this 
matter personally with him, but soon after Einstein's arrival in 
America the same question became acute there. The radical 
youth movement, as represented by the American Youth Con- 
gress, at first wanted to uphold the principle of absolute op- 
position to war, even in the case of a war of the democratic 
states against fascism, because such a war for them was in prin- 
ciple an imperialist war. Einstein, however, did not let himself 
be confused by such arguments, and saw that here as in Belgium 
these "opponents of war" were only working for the victory 
of the greatest military power. As a result they would achieve 
the very opposite of what they thought they were working for, 
Einstein thought that the principle of absolute non-participation 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

in war made sense only when a victory of the different powers 
did not lead to very different consequences for the population. 
In Europe after 1918 one might have said: It does not make 
much difference whether one is ruled by the French or the 
German Republic, by the United States or Great Britain. This 
difference does not justify war. But this standpoint can no 
longer be maintained when there are states whose principles 
of government differ as radically from each other as do those of 
Nazi Germany from those of the states around it. Under these 
conditions no one can remain indifferent to who will be the 
victor. Just as the principle of the constancy of the velocity of 
light is valid only if no great differences of gravitational po- 
tential and therefore no great forces are present, so the principle 
of absolute refusal to perform military service is valid only 
when there are no extreme differences between the govern- 
mental principles of opposing states. 

In U.S A. opponents of military service such as Bertrand Rus- 
sell and Archibald MacLeish drew the same consequences from 
the situation. Various metaphysically thinking authors charac- 
terized such men as "inconsistent" and wondered that logicians 
such as Russell could be so illogical. Einstein's case, however, 
would already have shown them that consistency in a metaphysi- 
cal sense that is, to hold fast to the letter of a principle is 
not consistency in a scientific sense which means to hold fast to 
the desirable consequences of a principle. Thus, because of his 
direct and honest thinking, Einstein once again became an ob- 
ject of attacks, even before he had actually departed from Eu- 
rope, and this time the attacks came from "progressive" and 
"radical" circles. 

At this time Einstein was most immediately concerned with 
the many hundreds and soon thousands of scholars and sci- 
entists, both young and old, who were expelled from their po- 
sitions by the purge in Germany. English scientists tried to give 
the refugees some opportunity to continue their work under 
more favorable conditions. The great English physicist Ruther- 
ford put himself at the head of this movement and organized 
the Academic Assistance Council in London. At its first meet- 
ing Einstein was to be presented to the public as a symbol of the 
victims, and with his great prestige was to make an appeal for 
this cause. One can very well imagine that this was not very 
pleasant for Einstein. He did not like to appear publicly in any 
matter where he was personally involved. Nevertheless, the seri- 
ousness of the situation and the importance of the relief measures 


Political Turmoil in Germany 

induced Mm to go to London and deliver an address on the sub- 
ject "Science and Liberty." At the meeting he sat next to Lord 
Rutherford, who presided. Immediately after his introductory 
words Rutherford pointed to his neighbor with an energetic 
gesture and presented him proudly: "Ladies and gentlemen, my 
old friend and colleague Professor Einstein." 

Einstein spoke with great reserve. He tried to point out the 
need for relief measures, while avoiding all political attacks. 
Strong words were superfluous, the cause spoke for itself. Ein- 
stein said : "It cannot be my task to act as judge of the conduct of a 
nation which for many years has considered me as her son. Per- 
haps it is an idle task to judge in times when action counts." 

Soon after this meeting, which took place early in October 
1933, Einstein was waiting at Southampton for a passenger ves- 
sel of moderate size that was coming from Antwerp and was 
to bring him to New York. 

But before I describe Einstein's new life in America, we will 
remain awhile yet in Europe to see the remarkable manner in 
which Einstein's abstract theories were utilized by political and 
religious groups for their purposes. 




i. Scientific Theories and Political Ideologies 

To a physicist or mathematician who actually under- 
stands, or believes that he understands, Einstein's theories, it 
must seem strange and frivolous when people whose under- 
standing of this matter is much more limited argue whether 
his theory is a product of the Bolshevization of Europe or per- 
haps a stage in the development of Europe from liberalism to 
fascism; whether it is a support for religion in its fight against 
materialism or whether it helps to breed disbelief in everything 
that traditional religion teaches about the universe. The profes- 
sional physicist will not find any trace of these ideas in Einstein's 
theories. He believes that their validity depends only on the 
correctness of certain computations, and on whether certain 
delicate experiments are carried out with the necessary care. 
Consequently he must feel that these disputes over Einstein's 
theories have been simply a result of ignorance and madness. 

But whoever investigates the fate of other radically new theo- 
ries about the universe for example, the fate of the Coper- 
nican system, the Newtonian theory, the laws of energy will 
find that all these theories led to discussions that from the stand- 
point of the physicist or mathematician appeared to be either 
superfluous or even foolish. 

The transition from science to political ideology occurs 
by means of philosophy. The generalizations of science are ex- 
pressed in philosophical language, in which terms such as "ideal- 
ism," "materialism," "force," "energy," and others play a part. 
The same words also appear in the philosophical doctrines that 
tell men how to act in private as well as in political life. In this 
way the generalizations of science are gradually transformed 
into principles of moral and political philosophy. 

On this point Viscount Samuel, a man who is conversant with 


Einstein's Theories as Political Weapons and Targets 

science, philosophy and politics, and who in addition has been 
connected with Einstein in a number of ways, said: 

"Philosophy of some kind moves the nations. Every land resounds 
with the tramp of armies, behind the armies are the dictators and the 
parliaments, behind them are the political creeds Communism, 
National Socialism, Fascism, Democracy and behind the creeds are 
the philosophers Marx, Engels, Hegel, Nietzsche, Sorel, Mill, and 

Philosophical systems like to make use of the newest scientific 
theories in order to have "exact" foundations. But the help that 
philosophy gets in this way does not lead to unambiguous re- 
sults. One and the same scientific theory can be used to support 
different political creeds. Bertrand Russell gave a very good 
characterization of this ambiguity: 

"There has been a tendency, not uncommon in the case of a new 
scientific theory, for every philosopher to interpret the work of Ein- 
stein in accordance with his own metaphysical system and to suggest 
that the outcome is a great accession of strength to the views which 
the philosopher in question previously held," 

This ambiguity arises from the fact that it is not the physical 
content of a theory that is responsible for its philosophical in- 
terpretations. Frequently it is rather the language in which the 
theory is formulated, its images and analogies that are inter- 

The interpretation of Einstein's Relativity is usually connected 
with two characteristics of the language in which he and his 
followers clothed his theory. The first characteristic is the aban- 
donment of mechanical analogies. There is no mention of any 
mechanism in the sense in which this word is used in daily life; 
for instance, there is no mechanism for the shortening of a body 
by rapid motion. Instead, a logical-empirical mode of expression 
is employed; that is, a system of mathematical formulae is given 
and the operations are described by which the magnitudes in 
these formulae can be measured empirically. The second charac- 
teristic is the use of the expression "relative to a certain body." 
The use of this mode of expression gives rise to a comparison 
with the language of so-called "relativism"; for example, ethical 
relativism, which asserts that any human action can be called 
good or bad only "relative to a certain ethnical group and histori- 
cal period," and so forth. 

By abandoning the mechanical analogy Einstein's theory har- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

monized to a certain extent with all the currents of thought 
that opposed the mechanistic conception of the world and the 
materialistic philosophy connected with it. The second char- 
acteristic of his mode of expression brought him close to those 
who were called ethical skeptics and who were frequently linked 
to a materialistic philosophy. 

Thus Einstein's theories could be used equally well as prop- 
aganda for materialism or against it. And since words such as 
"materialism/' "idealism/' "relativism/' and so forth, are fre- 
quently used as the catchwords of political ideologies, we can 
understand that Einstein's theories were very often used as a 
weapon in the struggle of political parties. 

2. Pro-Fascist Interpretation 

The fascist groups always have asserted that the Com- 
munist philosophy is materialistic, while theirs is anti-material- 
istic, or idealistic. Consequently Einstein's theories could be used 
as weapons for fascism if they were interpreted as arguments 
against materialism and for idealism. 

As early as 1927 that is, before the seizure of power by the 
Nazis Joseph Goebbels had shown how the language of Ger- 
man idealistic philosophy could be employed in the service of 
his party. First of all he presented an interpretation of the 
Kantian expression "thing-in-itself" (Ding an sich}, the char- 
acteristic concept of German idealism. Goebbels said: "The folk 
is a constituent of humanity. Humanity is not a thing-in-itself, 
nor is the individual a thing-in-itself. The folk is the thing- 
in-itself. . . ." 

"The materialist/' Goebbels continued, "regards the folk only 
as an instrument and does not want to concede that it is an in- 
dependent objective reality. For him the folk is an intermediate 
thing between man and humanity, and mankind is for him the 
ultimate. . . . Therefore the materialist is necessarily a demo- 
crat. The idealist sees in the word 'humanity' only a concept. 
Humanity is only something imagined, not a fact. . . ." 

By emphasizing its anti-mechanistic aspects it was, indeed, 
possible to employ Einstein's relativity theory as a weapon in the 
fight against "materialistic" democracy, German physicists who 
considered it desirable to teach Einstein's theories even in Na- 
tional Socialist Germany occasionally made use of this possi- 


Einstein's Theories as Political Weapons and Targets 

bility. Pascual Jordan, for instance, in his book The Physics of 
the Twentieth Century, recommended Einstein's theory of rel- 
ativity to National Socialists as a weapon in the fight against 
materialistic philosophy. Jordan said that the eradication of this 
philosophy is an "integral aspect of the unfolding new world 
of the twentieth century that has already begun, especially in 
Italy and Germany." The "new world" is that of Fascism and 
National Socialism. 

Since many opponents of Einstein's theories wanted to make 
use of the political power of the National Socialist Party in their 
fight against Einstein, they were very much upset by efforts 
such as that of Jordan. Thus, for instance, Hugo Dingier, who 
had already agitated against Einstein without any great success 
long before National Socialism, remarked with indignation 
about Jordan's book: "To hang this destructive Einstein phi- 
losophy on the skirts of the national movements in Germany 
and Italy is really a little too much." 

With the adjective "destructive" Dingier touched directly 
upon the other feature in the language of the theory of rela- 
tivity, the use of the expression "relative." He connected Ein- 
stein's theories with the English philosophy of enlightenment 
of David Hume, which according to popular conception is only 
a variant of materialism, and which the National Socialist Party 
felt obliged to oppose. 

If the theory of relativity had been advanced by someone other 
than Einstein, it is entirely possible that it would not have been 
unanimously condemned by the National Socialist Party. The 
relativity theory would very possibly have remained a constant 
object of controversy in these circles like various other philos- 
ophies. Einstein's Jewish ancestry, however, and his political 
attitude as a pacifist made the condemnation of his theory 

3. Einstein's Theories Attached as Expressions of 
Jewish Mentality 

In general, National Socialist writers regarded two 
groups of characteristics as typical of Jewish thinking. In the first 
place, it was said, the Jew prefers pure speculation to experimen- 
tal observations of nature. Secondly, it was asserted that the Jew 
does not recognize purely mental concepts, but believes only in 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

truths that can be discovered by sensory experience of material 
things. Obviously it is not difficult to find one of these char- 
acteristics in any physicist- 

Among those who attacked Einstein on the ground that his 
theories were purely speculative, the most ardent was Philipp 
Lenard, who has been mentioned several times already. In his 
book German Physics he said: 

"Jewish physics can best and most justly be characterized by recall- 
ing the activity of one who is probably its most prominent repre- 
sentative, the pure-blooded Jew Albert Einstein. His relativity theory 
was to transform and dominate all physics; but when faced with 
reality, it no longer has a leg to stand on. Nor was it intended to be 
true. In contrast to the equally Intractable and solicitous desire for 
truth of the Aryan scientist, the Jew lacks to a striking degree any 
comprehension of truth that is, of anything more than an apparent 
agreement with a reality that occurs independently of human 

In a lecture delivered at Munich in 1937 before the associa- 
tion of provincial teachers and students (Gaudozentenbund 
und Gaustudentenbund), the origin and development of this 
"Jewish" way of looking at nature was related to political condi- 
tions after the first World War. It was said: 

"The entire development of natural science is a communal effort 
of Aryan scientists, among whom the Germans are numerically fore- 
most. The period of Heinrich Hertz coincides with the gradual de- 
velopment of a Jewish natural science, which took advantage of the 
obscure situation in the physics of the ether and branched off from 
the course of development of Aryan physics. By systematically filling 
academic positions with Jews and by assuming an increasingly dic- 
tatorial attitude, this Jewish natural science tried to deprive Aryan 
physics of its foundations, to dogmatize, and to oppress all thinking 
about nature. Ultimately it replaced these foundations by a deceptive 
imaginary structure known as the relativity theory, above which it 
simultaneously inscribed the typically Jewish taboo that is, 'not 
to be touched.' This development was temporarily and causally coin- 
cident with the victory of Jewry in other fields during the postwar 

In 1938 the Zeitschrift fur die gesamte Naturwissenschaft 
(Journal for General Science} was founded for the specific pur- 
pose of propagating the National Socialist conception in sci- 
ence. In an article: "Racial Dependence of Mathematics and 
Physics/' we read the following: 


Einstein's Theories as Political Weapons and Targets 

"The influence of the Jews on the development of natural science 
is due first of all to a difference in their attitude toward the funda- 
mental relation between experiment and theory in favor of the latter. 
Theories were constructed without regard for the forms of human 
thought and perception and without any rigorous methodology of 
reasoning. . . . Einstein's theory of relativity offers us the clearest 
example of a dogmatic Jewish type of theory. It is headed by a dogma, 
the principle of the constancy of the velocity of light. In a vacuum 
the velocity of light is supposed to have constant magnitude inde- 
pendent of the state of motion of the light sources and the observer. 
It is falsely asserted that this is a fact of experience." 

Actually Einstein's principle of the constancy of the velocity 
of light is just as much and just as little a fact of experience 
and a dogma as any other of the basic hypotheses of a physical 
theory. It is only because of erroneous and defective presenta- 
tions of Einstein's theory that many persons believe the relation 
between theory and experience to be different here from, what 
it was in the older theories. 

This alleged preference of the Jews for theoretical delibera- 
tions was contrasted with the striving of the Aryan German 
for concrete action. The same contrast was seen in politics: the 
eternal pondering and indecision of the democratic states; and 
the firm action of National Socialist Germany. 

But by the average spokesmen of Nazi philosophy Einstein's 
theories were branded as materialistic and thus linked with 
Marxism. In 1936 a lecture was given at the camp of the Natural 
Scientific Professional Group of the National Socialist Student 
Association, in which it was said: 

"Einstein's theories could only have been greeted so joyfully by a 
generation that had already been raised and trained in materialistic 
modes of thought. On this account it would likewise have been unable 
to flourish in this way anywhere else but in the soil of Marxism, of 
which it is the scientific expression, just as this is true of cubism in 
the plastic arts and of the melodic and rhythmic barrenness of music 
in recent years." 

The speaker summarized his views in the statement: "The 
formulation of general relativity as a principle of nature cannot 
be anything but the expression of a thoroughly materialistic 
mental and spiritual attitude." 

Comparisons can certainly be drawn between the expressions 
of a period in different fields. But that Einstein's theories had 
developed on the basis of Marxism has certainly not been evi- 
dent to the Marxists, as we shall soon see. 


Einstein: His Life and Times - 

The same speaker later (1937) commented on his remarks, 

"Under the influence of the philosophy of enlightenment the nine- 
teenth century was a period that was excessively attached to the 
surface of things and valued material things beyond all measure. 
Hence, the majority of scientists were unable to grasp and to develop 
the concept of the ether which by its very nature obeys other laws 
than those of matter. Only a few, among them Philipp Lenard, had 
the breadth of soul and mind that was necessary for such a step. The 
others fell into the hand of the Jew, who instinctively grasped and 
exploited the situation." 

In order to be able to judge these arguments, one must re- 
member that the ether was introduced into physics only to 
explain phenomena by analogy with mechanics. Einstein was 
the first to recognize the impossibility of a mechanical explana- 
tion of optical phenomena, and therefore got rid of the ether. 
This was the consistent action of a man who recognized the 
untenableness of the mechanistic conception of nature. The sci- 
entific supporters of the National Socialist Party did not want to 
take this step. They did not want to give up the mechanistic 
conception of physics, since it somehow fitted into their philos- 
ophy of unsophisticated approach to nature. But as they were 
simultaneously opposed to materialism, their position became 
a rather difficult one. They introduced an ether that was not 
material, and thus had none of the properties for the sake of 
which it was introduced. 

Later Lenard also proposed this compromise solution. Since 
the seizure of power by the Nazis, he attacked Einstein from a 
new standpoint. Previously he had opposed Einstein because 
the latter had given up mechanistic explanations in physics; now 
he accused Einstein of materialism and failing to recognize an 
immaterial ether. Einstein, however, introduced no mechanical 
basis whatever for optical phenomena and was farther removed 
than Lenard from materialism in this mechanistic sense. 

Another reason for the opposition to Einstein came from the 
circumstance that the word "force" is a term that was used with 
particular favor by the National Socialists. They considered it 
a great misfortune that this word should disappear from physics. 
The fight for this word reveals very clearly the manner in which 
physics and politics are connected. 

The Austrian Ernst Mach and the German Gustav Kirchhoff 
were the first among the physici v sts to construct a system of 


Einstein's Theories as Political Weapons and Targets 

mechanics in which the word "force 5 * did not occur in the laws 
of motion. This word was introduced only as an auxiliary con- 
cept to abbreviate the mode of expression. Since the National 
Socialists characterized everything that they did not like as "Jew- 
ish," they regarded the elimination of the word "force" as the 
work of the Jews, even though, as we have seen, it was undoubt- 
edly first carried out by German physicists. In his Mechanics 
Heinrich Hertz, the discoverer of electrical waves, followed 
Mach and Kirchhoff in seeking a new way to eliminate the 
word "force" from the fundamental laws of motion. National 
Socialist authors ascribed this striving to Hertz's Jewish blood. 
One of them writes: "If we recall that the Jewish physicist 
Einstein also wanted to remove the concept of force from physics, 
we must raise the question at this point whether an inner, racially 
determined relationship does not appear here." In Einstein's 
theory of gravitation the concept of force does not appear as a 
basic concept. Bodies move in paths that are represented by the 
"shortest" possible curves. 

This elimination of force as a fundamental concept is re- 
garded as characteristic of the Jewish type of thinking. In an 
article in the Zeitschrijt fur die gesamte 'Naturwissenschajt we 

"The concept of force, which was introduced by Aryan scientists 
for the causal interpretation of changes in velocity, obviously arises 
from the personal experience of human labor, of manual creation, 
which has been and is the essential content of the life of Aryan man. 
The picture of the world that thus arose possessed in every detail the 
quality of visual clarity, from which arises the happy impression that 
it produces on related minds. All this changed fundamentally when 
the Jew seized the reins in natural science to an ever increasing degree. 
. . . The Jew would not be himself if the characteristic feature of his 
attitude, just as everywhere else in science, were not the disintegration 
and destruction of Aryan construction." 

The author links "Jewish Physics" with a favorite Nazi target, 
the Talmud: 

"The mode of thought that finds its expression in Einstein's theory 
is known, when applied to other ordinary things, as 'Talmudic think- 
ing.' The task of the Talmud is to fulfill the precepts of the Tora, the 
Biblical law, by circumventing them. This is accomplished by means 
of suitable definitions of the concepts occurring in the law and by a 
purely formalistic mode of interpreting and applying them. Consider 
the Talmud Jew who places a food receptacle under his seat in a rail- 
way car, thus turning it formally into his residence, and in this man- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

ner formally obeying the law that on the Sabbath one should not 
travel more than a mile from his residence. It is this formal fulfill- 
ment that is important for the Jews, 

"This formalistic Talmudic thinking likewise manifests itself in 
Jewish physics. Within the theory of relativity the principle of the 
constancy of the velocity of light and the principle of the general 
relativity of natural phenomena represent the 'Tora/ which must be 
fulfilled under all circumstances. For this fulfillment an extensive 
mathematical apparatus is necessary; and just as previously the con- 
cept of 'residence' and 'carrying' were rendered lifeless and given a 
more expedient definition, so in the Jewish relativity theory the con- 
cepts of space and time are deprived of all spirit and defined in an 
expedient, purely intellectual way." 

The characterization of the Einsteinian definitions of 
"length/' "temporal duration/' and so on, as "lifeless" in con- 
trast to the definitions of traditional physics has only the fol- 
lowing justification. At every stage of scientific development 
concepts are introduced by means of such definitions as cor- 
respond to the particular stage; that is, they are as practical as 
possible for the presentation of available knowledge. When 
such a stage has lasted for a long time, the words that are used 
in science gradually become words of daily life; they acquire 
an emotional overtone and become filled with life. Every in- 
troduction of new definitions appears to us to create "lifeless" 

I once met on a train a Japanese diplomat who was just com- 
ing from the Wagner festival at Bayreuth. I asked him how he 
liked Wagnerian music. He replied: "Technically it is highly 
developed and ingenious. But in comparison with Japanese 
music it lacks a soul." For one who has grown up with the 
sound of Japanese music in his ears Wagnerian music sounds 
just as "lifeless" and "intellectualistic" as the definitions of Ein- 
stein's theory do to one who has been accustomed all his life to 
Newtonian mechanics. 

4. Attitude of the Soviet Philosophy toward Einstein 

The Soviet government publishes the great Soviet En- 
cyclopaedia that presents the entire knowledge of our time from 
the point of view of Soviet doctrines. This article on "Einstein" 
begins with the words; "Einstein is the greatest physicist of our 


Einstein's Theories as Political Weapons and Targets 

time." Among the Soviet philosophers he is regarded as a great 
physicist who was prevented by the economic circumstances 
under which he grew up from drawing the correct philosophical 
conclusions from his theory. Regarding Einstein's philosophical 
views the Encyclopedia reads: "Einstein's philosophical position 
is not consistent. Materialistic and dialectical elements are inter- 
woven with Machist assertions, which predominate in almost 
all of Einstein's remarks." 

In order to understand these comments, it must be remem- 
bered that dialectical materialism has been the official philosophy 
of Soviet Russia, and that Machism, the teaching of Ernst Mach, 
has been the main target of its attack. 

On consulting the article on "Ether" in the same Encyclo- 
pedia, we find there: 

"In physics we often find a completely erroneous contrast between 
ether and matter. Since the physicists regard only gravity and inertia 
as criteria of materiality, they were inclined to deny the materiality 
of the ether. Here we have the same confusion of the physical and 
philosophical concepts of matter that was analyzed by Lenin in his 
consideration of the crisis in natural science at the beginning of the 
twentieth century. . . . The ether is a kind of matter and has the 
same objective reality as other kinds. . . . The antithesis of ether 
and matter is senseless and leads to agnostic and idealistic arguments. 
. . . The theory of relativity has recourse to a mathematical descrip- 
tion, it abandons the answering of the question concerning the objec- 
tive nature of physical phenomena; that is, in the question of the ether 
it takes the standpoint of Mach." 

By studying events in Russia since the seizure of power by 
Lenin, we can see that no attempt was ever made to exert political 
influences on physical theories proper, and when individuals 
did attempt to do this, it was not approved by the authorities. 
On the other hand, the philosophical interpretation of theories 
has been a political matter; the intervention of the party and its 
organs, as for example, the Communist Academy of Science in 
Moscow, has been regarded as a matter of course. Naturally, the 
boundary between a physical theory and its philosophical in- 
terpretation cannot always be drawn so distinctly, and on various 
occasions border trespassing has taken place. Lenin had already 
said on one occasion: "Not a single professor among those who 
are able to make the most valuable contributions to the special 
domains of chemistry, history, or physics, can be trusted even so 
far as a single word when it comes to philosophy." 

The official conception of the reciprocal relations between 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

physics, philosophy, and politics is very clearly set forth in an 
address delivered by A. F. Joffe, the leading physicist of the 
Soviet Union, in 1934 at a memorial session of the Philosophi- 
cal Institute of the Communist Party. This session was held to 
commemorate the publication twenty-five years previously of 
Lenin's chief philosophical work, Materialism and Empirio- 
criticism, which contains Lenin's views on the misinterpreta- 
tions of modern physics and his attacks on "Machism." In his 
address Joffe said: 

"When physicists such as Bohr, Schrodinger, and Heisenberg ex- 
press their opinions in popular works regarding the philosophical 
generalizations of their work in physics, their philosophy is sometimes 
a product of the social conditions under which they live and of the 
social tasks that they carry out, either consciously or unconsciously. 
Thus Heisenberg's physical theory is a materialistic theory; that is, 
it is the closest approximation to reality possible at present. Lenin, too, 
did not criticize Mach's scientific researches, but only his philosophy." 

The philosophers of the Roman Church made, already, a clear 
distinction between the astronomical theories of Copernicus and 
Galileo's philosophical interpretation of these theories. 

In 1938 A. Maximov, one of the best-known Soviet writers 
on the philosophy of physics, said in an article on the significance 
of Lenin's book mentioned above: 

"No physical theory has produced such a stream of idealistic 
fantasies as Einstein's theory of relativity. Mystics, clerics, idealists of 
all shades, among them also a number of serious scientists, snatched 
at the philosophical consequences of the theory of relativity. The ideal- 
ists directed all their efforts to the refutation of materialism. Somehow 
it had proved the philosophical relativity of time and space. Then 
came the general theory of relativity, together with the theory of the 
curvature and finiteness of space." 

By the phrase "refutation of materialism" is here meant the 
proof that departures from Newtonian mechanics and the ether 
theory of light are necessary. Maximov then referred explicitly 
to the political causes of the idealistic tendencies manifested by 
the scientists. He said: 

"In our time the bourgeoisie in a number of countries has aban- 
doned the veiled forms of capitalistic dictatorship for the open dic- 
tatorship of ax and bludgeon. As a result of the persecutions of the 
scientific Weltanschauung in the capitalistic countries, which was con- 
nected with this transition, many scientists joined the camp of re- 


Einstein's Theories as Political Weapons and Targets 

action. This change of loyalties manifests itself among scientists by 
the appearance of avowals of idealism and metaphysics. During the 
last ten to fifteen years a retrograde trend has manifested itself in all 
fields of natural science in the capitalistic countries. Opposition to 
Darwinism and to the Kant-Laplace theories in physics, and attacks 
on the law of the conservation and transformation of energy, have 
become the fashion." 

^ It is certainly true that idealistic "interpretations" of the rela- 
tivity theory have been frequently used to bolster up Fascist 

Soon after the general theory of relativity achieved world 
fame, in 1928, this same Maximov described it as a plant that 
had sprouted in the mystically inclined soil of die postwar pe- 
riod. After describing the postwar years in Germany, he said: 

"This idealistic atmosphere surrounded the theory of relativity and 
still surrounds it at the present day. It is therefore only natural that 
the announcement of general relativity by Einstein was received with 
delight by the bourgeois intellectuals. The inability of scholars to 
withdraw from this influence within the boundaries of bourgeois 
society led to the result that the relativity principle served exclusively 
religious and metaphysical sentiments. 

"What should be our relation to the theory of relativity ? We should 
accept all the empirical material as well as all the conclusions and 
generalizations that follow logically from it. ... But in place of the 
idealistic presentation of the theory of relativity favored by bourgeois 
society we must develop a dialectical presentation of the theory. We 
need young capable scientists who are thoroughly imbued with the 
proletarian ideology." 

In order to understand correctly the Soviet attitude toward 
Relativity we have to distinguish two periods. During the first 
years of the Soviet regime there prevailed among the official 
philosophers the opinions that the relativity theory contradicted 
materialism because it did not regard optical phenomena as 
phenomena of motion occurring in a material body. This view 
was supported by the Moscow physicist A. K. Timiryasev, who 
judged all physicists on the basis of their agreement or nonagree- 
ment with Newton's mechanistic science. 

It will be recalled that Lenard, the leading Nazi physicist in 
Germany, had also rejected Einstein's theory because it could 
not present a mechanical model of optical events. Soon after its 
publication in 1922, Lenard's book was translated into Russian 
and published with an introduction by Timiryasev. In the same 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

year Maximov wrote a review of Lenard's book for the leading 
philosophical journal of the Soviet Union, Under the banner of 
Marxism, in which he said : 

"While Einstein, the idealist, ascribes an absolute value to the crea- 
tions of the mind and puts the world of events on an equal footing 
with the world of experiences, Lenard takes a diametrically opposed 
point of view. From the standpoint of common sense, which is more 
inclined to stick to the experiences of the material world than to the 
need of philosophy, Lenard prefers to retain the mechanical picture 
of the world. Starting from a standpoint that is in general purely 
materialistic, Lenard clearly recognizes the contradiction to which 
one is led by the theory of relativity." 

On the other hand we have seen that spokesmen of Nazi phi- 
losophy frequently asserted that Einstein's theory could have 
flowered only in the soil of materialism and that it appears to- 
gether with Marxism. Now we see that the authorized inter- 
preters of Marxism were apparently not of this opinion. We 
also see that the description of a physical theory as "material- 
istic" or "idealistic" depends only upon its philosophical interpre- 

The attacks of the earlier Soviet philosophers upon Mach and 
Einstein coincided at many points with those of the National 
Socialist writers. We need only consider the criticisms that Ein- 
stein's theories only "describe" nature, but do not "explain" it, 
that they reject everything that cannot be an object of sensory 
experience, that they lead to general skepticism and to the de- 
struction of all objective knowledge of nature, and so forth. 

Later on confusion of materialism with "mechanistic physics" 
has been denounced by the "Soviet Institute of Philosophy" as 
a "reactionary" doctrine that is not compatible with modern 
science. By "materialism" one should not mean that all natural 
phenomena could be reduced to motions following Newton's 
law. This "mechanistic materialism," as a matter of fact, had 
been denounced already by Marx and Engels. But it enjoyed a 
comeback, as some physicists used it as a weapon against Ein- 
stein's theory as Nazi physicists like Lenard had done in Ger- 
many, In stressing dialectical materialism in the sense of Marx, 
Engels, and Lenin, "materialism" means that science has to do 
with objective facts that are independent of human conscious- 
ness; but these facts do not need to be merely motions of material 


Einstein's Theories as Political Weapons and Targets 

In the second period of Soviet philosophy, after the abandon- 
ment of "mechanistic" materialism, a leading Russian physicist, 
Vavilov, demonstrated that the theory of relativity is quite in 
agreement with materialism if this word is interpreted in the 
sense of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. In an article that appeared in 
1939 Vavilov said clearly: 

"Objective real space devoid of material properties, motion divorced 
from matter, are metaphysical phantoms that sooner or later have to 
be expelled from the physical picture of the world. . . . The historic 
service rendered by Einstein was the criticism of the old metaphysical 
conceptions of space and time. ... In Einstein's theory space-time 
is an inseparable property of matter itself. Such is the basic idea of 
Einstein's general theory of relativity. The idealistic conception of 
space-time as a category of thought is swept away. . . . Before us is 
the first outline, still far from perfect, of the dialectical materialistic 
understanding of space and time. Once again dialectical materialism 
has triumphed." 

More recently, the danger of a "pure philosophy" separated 
from science has been more and more recognized in the Soviet 
Union. A close co-operation between scientists and philosophers 
has been more and more required as the only basis of progressive 
thought. Discussions between physicists and philosophers re- 
moved the most harmful misunderstandings, and in 1942, after 
"twenty-five years of philosophy in the U.S.S.R." the leading 
Soviet philosopher, the Academician M. Mitin, gave an address 
in the Russian Academy of Science at the twenty-fifth anni- 
versary of the Soviet Union in which he celebrated as an im- 
portant achievement of these twenty-five years of philosophy 
the fact that the attacks against Einstein's theory had ceased and 
its compatibility with a sound brand of materialism had been 

"As a result," says Mitin, "of the tremendous work that our 
philosophers and physicists had carried out, as a result of many im- 
passioned discussions ... it may be now said that our philosophical 
conclusions concerning this theory have been firmly established. The 
theory of relativity does not deny that time and space, matter and 
movement, are absolute in the sense of their objective existence out- 
side human consciousness. . . . The theory of relativity establishes 
only the relativity of the results of measuring time and space by ob- 
servers who are moving relatively to one another." 

And then Mitin proceeds to characterize Einstein's theory in 
almost the same words that Einstein himself had used to sum- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

marize the gist of his theory in one sentence to the newspaper- 
men who interviewed him at his first arrival in New York 

"Time and space are indivisible from the moving body and must be 
regarded relative to that movement. In this respect time and space 
are relative. ... In place o the old metaphysical conception of pure 
time and space having only geometrical qualities, we obtain a new 
theory of time and space inseparable, bound up with bodies and 

5. Einstein's Theories as Arguments for Religion 

We have seen how Einstein's theories were linked to 
expressions such as "materialism" and "idealism" in a fairly am- 
biguous manner and in this way used to support political creeds. 
It is not surprising therefore that they were used in a similar 
fashion in the battle over religious ideas. 

It will be remembered how (ch. VIII, sect. 6) the Archbishop 
of Canterbury had gone to a great deal of trouble to study the 
theory of relativity, and how he had felt reassured by Einstein's 
statement that this theory had nothing to do with religion. 
Nevertheless, a man like Sir Arthur Eddington, who not only 
was an outstanding astronomer and thoroughly conversant with 
the theory of relativity, but had also achieved a great reputation 
in the field of the philosophy of science, did not agree at all with 
Einstein's remark. In his book The Philosophy of Physical Sci- 
ence, published in 1939, he said that Einstein's answer to the 
Archbishop was not very conclusive. 

Consequently I wish to describe some attempts that have been 
made to establish a connection between Einstein's theories and 
religion. Once again the course taken was by way of philosophy, 
and here too the starting-point was the question: Is Einstein's 
theory idealistic or materialistic ? 

Several years ago in an address to Catholic students Cardinal 
O'Connell, Archbishop of Boston, said: 

"Remembering the tremendous excitement over the Darwinian 
theory of evolution during my boyhood and the furore created less 
than ten years ago by Einstein's theory of relativity I tell you that those 
theories became outmoded because they were mainly materialistic 
and therefore unable to stand the test of time." 


Einstein's Theories as Political Weapons and Targets 

Nevertheless, Catholic philosophers were themselves not 
agreed whether Einstein's theory is actually materialistic. The 
Irish philosopher A. O'Rahilly, who is also thoroughly conver- 
sant with theoretical physics, disagrees with Einstein's theory of 
relativity because it is based on "subjective idealism." 

Thomistic philosophy, which is at present generally regarded 
as the scientific foundation of Catholic theology, rejects both 
idealism and materialism. Consequently, to the Catholic who 
takes his stand on the basis of Scholasticism, either philosophical 
interpretation of Einstein's theory is a weapon that can be turned 
against him. If, however, the scholastic foundations of religion 
are not considered and one consults simply one's feeling, then a 
religious person will regard any theory that can be interpreted as 
an argument for idealism as supporting his faith. On the occasion 
of Einstein's visit to London the conservative Times had stated 
triumphantly in an editorial: "Observational science has, in fact, 
led back to the purest subjective idealism." 

What the journalist stated briefly and concisely for the public 
at large was soon demonstrated professionally by the British phi- 
losopher Wildon Carr in a book for philosophers and theolo- 
gians. In it he said: 

"The adoption of the principle of relativity means that the subjec- 
tive factor, inseparable from knowledge in the very concept of it, must 
enter positively into physical science. . . . Hitherto the scientific 
problem has been to find a place for mind in the objective system of 
nature and the philosophical problem to validate the obstinate 
objectivity of nature. . . . Now when the reality is taken in the 
concrete, as the general principle of relativity requires us to take it, 
we do not separate the observer from what he observes, the mind 
from its object, and then dispute as to the primacy of the one over the 

According to this, the achievement of the relativity theory 
for religion is simply that it provided a place for mind in nature, 
which during the period of mechanistic physics had been re- 
garded as completely "material and mindless." 

If the reader will recall Einstein's physical theories, he will 
easily see that this interpretation is more closely related to the 
wording than to the content of these theories. This is even more 
obvious in the case of authors who use the four-dimensional rep- 
resentation of the theory of relativity as an argument for tradi- 
tional religion. As a typical example I wish to quote from an 
article written by the director of the Department of Theology 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

of an English college abroad, which appeared in the Hibbert 
Journal in 1939. He said there: 

"If the idea of time as a fourth dimension is valid, then the difference 
between this mortal life and the 'other life' is not a difference in the 
time nor in the quality of the life. It is only a difference in our view 
of it our ability to see it whole. While we are limited to three- 
dimensional understanding, it is mortal life. Where we perceive it 
in four dimensions, it is eternal life." 

This is obviously an interpretation of the words used in the 
theory of relativity and has hardly anything to do with its factual 
content. Einstein's own attitude to religion, however, has never 
been determined by his particular physical theories, but rather by 
his general judgment about the role of science and faith in 
human life. The numerous attempts to make the theory of 
relativity a springboard for excursions into the field of theology 
have never been encouraged by Einstein. 




The Institute for Advanced Study 

As the racial and political purging proceeded in the 
German universities, it soon became evident throughout the 
entire world that a large number o capable and often famous 
men were looking for positions outside Germany. It thus became 
possible for institutions abroad to acquire many outstanding 
scholars cheaply. One of the greatest German scientists, whom 
I visited at his Berlin laboratory in the summer of 1933, showed 
me a long list of men who were available and said haltjokingly : 
"What we are now doing in Germany is organizing a bargain 
sale of good merchandise at reduced prices. Shrewd persons will 
certainly seize this opportunity to buy something from us." 

The scholars who had been dismissed in Germany could ac- 
tually be compared in this way to merchandise that had to be 
sold at reduced prices as "irregulars." Even such a slight defect 
as the ancestry of a scientist's wife made the sale necessary. And 
of these bargains which appeared on the market at that time,, 
Einstein naturally created the most sensation. It was as if a great 
museum were suddenly to offer for sale Rembrandt's most valu- 
able paintings at a very low price simply because the new direc- 
tors of the museum did not like to have pictures of a certain style. 

Einstein, of course, did not have any troubles in finding a 
new position. Many universities offered him posts. The Uni- 
versities of Madrid and Jerusalem, among others, invited him, 
and one of the oldest and most esteemed institutions of Europe, 
the venerable Sorbonne in Paris, actually appointed Einstein a 
professor though he never really occupied this position. Ein- 
stein wanted to leave Europe because he did not expect any 
change for the better in the immediate future. His friends also 
cautioned him against settling anywhere near Germany since, 
in view of the fantastic ideas regarding Einstein's political in- 
fluence and activity held by the ruling party, the danger was 
always present that some fanatic might order Einstein to be 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Einstein had no difficult decision to make, since he had been 
offered already and had accepted an ideal position in the United 
States. The offer had been made in the summer of 1932, and at 
that time it was for him an unexpected sign from heaven to pre- 
pare for emigration from Europe. 

In 1930 Mr. Louis Bamberger and Mrs. Felix Fuld, on the 
advice of Abraham Flexner, who had done so much for the 
reform of American education, donated a sum of five million 
dollars for the founding of an entirely novel institution for re- 
search and teaching. They had asked Dr. Flexner how in his 
opinion they could most usefully employ their money, and he 
had replied that there were already in the United States many 
universities where students could work for the degree of Doctor 
of Philosophy, but he felt the lack of another type of institu- 
tion. He had recognized the important need for promising 
young scholars who had completed the work for the doctorate 
to continue their training and research in daily informal inter- 
course with the leaders in their fields. Flexner felt that this in- 
formal contact between outstanding scholars and students had 
been the great achievement of the German universities during 
their golden era. In his opinion the American universities were 
still not yet adequately organized for this purpose, with the 
courses only serving to prepare students for certain academic 
degrees and the professors too greatly overburdened to main- 
tain any contact with students who had completed their studies. 

This institute, which was named the Institute for Advanced 
Study, and whose direction Dr. Flexner was asked to assume, 
was to be an institution in which a small group of professors 
served as the nucleus of a larger, temporary group of mature, 
though generally younger scholars. The choice of the staff and 
admission of students were to be based entirely on ability, and 
no consideration of a social or political nature, which must 
necessarily enter into any appointment at collegiate institutions, 
was to be made. The founders of the institute made this clear 
in a letter addressed to the trustees, as follows : 

"It is our hope that the staff of the institution will consist exclu- 
sively of men and women of the highest standing in their respective 
fields of learning, attracted to the institution through its appeal as an 
opportunity for the serious pursuit of advanced study and because 
of the detachment it is hoped to secure from outside distraction. 

"It is fundamental in our purpose, and our express desire, that in 
the appointments to the staff and faculty, as well as in the admission 
of workers and students, no account shall be taken, directly or in- 


Einstein in the United States 

directly, p race, religion, or sex. We feel strongly that the spirit 
characteristic of America at its noblest, above all, the pursuit of higher 
learning, cannot admit of any conditions as to personnel other than 
those designed to promote the objects for which this institution is 
established, and particularly with no regard whatever to accidents of 
race, creed, or sex." 

It was also intended to free the faculty of this institute as far 
as possible from all administrative and pedagogical duties, so 
that they could concentrate on their academic work. In the letter 
the founders also said: 

"It is^our desire that those who are assembled in the faculty of the 
institution may enjoy the most favorable opportunities for continu- 
ing research in their particular field and that the utmost liberty of 
action shall be afforded to the said faculty to this end." 

In his address at the organizing meeting Flexner emphasized 
particularly that the members of the institute were to have bet- 
ter living conditions than in most universities. He said: 

"The sacrifices required of an American professor and his family 
are to a high degree deterrent. The conditions provided are rarely 
favorable to severe prolonged and fundamental thinking. Poor sala- 
ries frighten off the able and more vigorous and compel the university 
instructor to eke out his inadequate income by writing unnecessary 
textbooks or engaging in other forms of hackwork. ... It is there- 
fore of utmost importance that we should set a new standard." 

It thus became the policy of the institute to have a faculty 
consisting of a few excellent but well-paid members. 

At first no decision was made as to which subjects would be 
cultivated at the institute, but if the principles laid down by the 
founders and Dr. Flexner were to be realized, the limited means 
that were available made it necessary that the institute restrict 
its activities at first to a certain special field. After a good deal 
of reflection and consultation Flexner decided to devote the 
institute first to mathematical sciences. He was led to this choice 
by three reasons. Firstly, mathematics is fundamental; secondly, 
it requires the least investment in equipment and books; and 
thirdly, it became obvious to Flexner that he could secure greater 
agreement upon those who were considered the outstanding 
leaders in the field of mathematics than in any other field. 

Until the institute could have its own building, President 
Hibben of Princeton University turned over to Flexner a part of 
Fine Hall, the mathematics building on the Princeton campus. 
The beautiful campus with the shady trees and the buildings 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

in the Gothic style of the English universities presented a stim- 
ulating environment. Also, the institute obtained a certain point 
of departure for its activities by collaborating with the mathe- 
maticians of the university. It was expected that as time went 
on, outstanding men from the entire world who had already 
obtained the doctorate in mathematics would come to Fine Hall. 
From the very beginning it had been the idea of the found- 
ers that it should somehow have a cloistered character. As Flex- 
ner once expressed it: "It should be a haven where scholars and 
scientists may regard the world and its phenomena as their lab- 
oratory without being carried off in the maelstrom of the im- 
mediate." This seclusion of the institute was increased in 1940 
when it moved away from Fine Hall and the Princeton campus 
to its own building, situated a few miles outside of the town 
of Princeton. 

2. Einstein's Decision to Join the Institute 

Flexner first set out to look for the great masters who 
were to form the basis of his institute. He traveled through 
America and Europe looking for men of such rank who were 
available. In the course of these journeys he came to Pasadena in 
the winter of 1932. There he discussed the matter with R. A. 
Millikan, the famous physicist, who said to him: "You know 
that Einstein is a guest here at present. Why don't you tell him 
about your plan and hear his opinion?" At first Flexner was 
rather hesitant about discussing such questions concerning 
teaching and administration with a man who had already be- 
come a legend. He was afraid to approach Einstein because he 
was "a too much lionized man." Millikan told him, however, 
that Einstein was a man who was interested in all projects for 
improving the training of young scholars and who liked every- 
thing that was new and bold. "I will tell him about you imme- 
diately. Look him up at the Athenaeum." This is the faculty 
club of the California Institute of Technology, situated in the 
midst of a beautiful palm garden, where foreign scholars stayed 
as guests. 
Flexner described this visit as follows: 

"I drove over to the Athenaeum where he and Mrs. Einstein were 
staying and met him for the first time. I was fascinated by his noble 
bearing, his simply charming manner and his genuine humility. We 


Einstein in the United States 

walked up and down the corridor of the Athenaeum for upwards of 
an hour, I explaining, he questioning. Shortly after twelve, Mrs. Ein- 
stein appeared to remind him that he had a luncheon engagement. 
'Very well/ he said in his kindly way, c we have time for that. Let us 
talk a little longer.' " 

At this time Flexner did not yet consider Einstein himself 
for this institute. He wanted only to hear his opinion about the 
plan. They agreed to meet again early the next summer at 
Oxford, where Einstein was to lecture. 

As they had planned, Einstein actually met Flexner on the 
beautiful lawn of the quadrangle of Christ Church College at 
Oxford, where Einstein was staying. Flexner describes the 

"It happened to be a superbly beautiful day and we walked up and 
down, coming to closer and closer grips with the problem. As it 
dawned on me during our conversation that perhaps he might be 
interested in attaching himself to an institute of the proposed kind, 
before we parted I said to him: Trofessor Einstein, I would not pre- 
sume to offer you a post in this new Institute, but if on reflection you 
decide that it would afford you the opportunity which you value you 
would be welcome on your own terms.' " 

They agreed that during the summer Flexner would come to 
Berlin to continue the talks. It was the summer of Papen's in- 
terim government in Germany, the summer when the German 
Republic was already dead and led only a ghostly existence. Ein- 
stein saw the future with complete clarity and had decided to 
keep the road to America open for himself. 

When Flexner came to Berlin, Einstein was already living 
in his country home at Caputh near Potsdam. It was the same 
summer and the same house of which I have already spoken 
in Chapter X. Flexner arrived at Einstein's country house on a 
Saturday at three in the afternoon. He describes his visit as 

"It was a cold day. I was still wearing my winter clothes and heavy 
overcoat. Arriving at Einstein's country home, beautiful and com- 
modious, I found him seated on the veranda wearing summer flan- 
nels. He asked me to sit down. I asked whether I might wear my 
overcoat. 'Oh yes/ he replied. 'Aren't you chilly?' I asked, surveying 
his costume. 'No,' he replied, 'my dress is according to the season, 
not according to the weather, it is summer.' 

"We sat then on the veranda and talked until evening, when Ein- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

stein invited me to stay to supper. After supper we talked until almost 
eleven. By that time it was perfectly clear that Einstein and his wife 
were prepared to come to America. I told him to name his own terms 
and he promised me to write to me within a few days." 

As was his custom, Einstein, wearing a sweater and no hat, 
accompanied his visitor through the rain to the bus station. The 
last thing he said on bidding Flexner farewell was: "I am full 
of enthusiasm about it." 

Einstein soon communicated the conditions under which he 
would take the new position in a letter to Flexner, who found 
them much too modest for such an institute and for a man like 
Einstein. He requested that the negotiations be left to himself 
and to Mrs. Einstein. The contract was concluded at this time. 
Einstein pointed out that he was obliged to spend the winter 
of 1932-3 in Pasadena and could not go to Princeton until the 
fall of 1933. At that time he still had intentions of spending a 
part of every year in Berlin, for he preferred not to be unfaithful 
to his friends in the world of physics there. But he was very 
much aware of coming events. When the Nazi revolution took 
place early in 1933, the way had already been prepared for his 
emigration to America, and in the winter of 1933 Einstein en- 
tered upon his new position at the Institute for Advanced Study, 
which Flexner had founded at Princeton. Now there was nat- 
urally no further mention of spending a part of the year in 
Berlin. Einstein moved to Princeton to become a permanent resi- 
dent and citizen of the United States. There were still, however, 
a number of stages through which he had to pass in order to 
achieve this.,goal. He had entered the country only as a visitor 
and for the present had no legal right to remain here perma- 
nently, to say nothing of becoming a citizen. 

3, Einstein's Activities at the Institute 

The institute that Einstein joined was in some respects 
similar to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute to which he had be- 
longed in Berlin. Thus he once again occupied a position that 
in a certain respect had always appeared distasteful to him. As 
I have already mentioned, he always regarded it as an uncom- 
fortable situation for anyone to be paid only for his research 
work. One does not always have really valuable ideas, so that 
there is a temptation to publish papers of no special value. Thus 


Einstein in the United States 

the scientist is subject to a painful coercion. But when one Is a 
teacher with a moderate load one has every day the consoling 
feeling of having done a job that is useful to the society. In such 
a situation it is satisfying to carry on research for one's own pleas- 
ure during the leisure hours, without compulsion. 

On the other hand, however, a man of creative ideas like Ein- 
stein chafed under the daily routine of teaching. He found the 
idea of teaching very noble, but when he was actually offered 
a position where he would be able to devote himself entirely to 
research, he was unable to refuse it. At the new Institute he was 
able to guide talented students who had already acquired the 
doctorate in carrying on their researches. In consequence, how- 
ever, his contact with students was restricted to a very small 
group. Einstein often vacillated between a feeling of satisfaction 
at being spared any routine work and a certain feeling of lone- 
liness due to his isolation from the great mass of students. 

This divided attitude was quite in accord with his divided at- 
titude toward contact with his fellow men in general, which 
has already been mentioned repeatedly. This division, which 
has played a large part in his entire life, manifested itself also 
in his attitude to his environment in Princeton. It would have 
been simple enough for him to give lectures or to organize a 
seminar, which many of the students might have attended. 
Einstein, however, felt that it would not be fair for him, a man 
with an international reputation, to enter into a contest with 
the professors of the university, some of whom were still quite 
young. They could with some justification regard it as "unfair 
competition." At any rate Einstein very punctiliously avoided 
any such competition for students. It is possible, however, that he 
exaggerated in his mind the touchiness and ambition of his col- 
leagues, since many would gladly have taken advantage of the 
presence of such an outstanding scientist in Princeton to learn 
from him themselves. As things were, his presence there has not 
been utilized so much as it might have been. No one, perhaps not 
even Einstein himself, can say to what degree this situation is 
due to his consideration for others and his aversion toward more 
intimate contact with people. 

By and large, at Princeton Einstein took up his researches 
where he had left off in Berlin; this is true both of the prob- 
lems themselves and of the way in which he dealt with them. 
It was always very characteristic of him to be independent of 
his environment. Just as at the time of our meeting in Berlin 
twenty-five years before it had been a matter of indifference to 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

him whether he was working at his problems in his study or on 
a bridge in Potsdam, so now it made no difference to him that 
he had moved his office from the western suburb of Berlin to 
the distinguished American university town of Princeton be- 
yond the ocean. 

Three groups of problems occupied Einstein during this pe- 
riod. In the first place there was the desire to develop his special 
and general relativity theories of 1905, 1912, and 1916 into an 
ever more logically connected structure. In one important point 
Einstein succeeded in making a great advance at Princeton. It 
will be recalled that Einstein regarded the gravitational field as 
a geometrical property of space, which can be called in a word 
the "curvature." This curvature is determined by the presence of 
matter in space and can be computed from the distribution of 
matter. If the curvature of space, or, in other words, the gravita- 
tional field, is known, then one also knows how a 'body that 
is present in this space will move. This is given by the "equa- 
tions of motion/' which can be stated briefly as follows: A body 
moves in such a manner that the representation of the path in 
a four-dimensional space-time continuum is a geodesic (short- 
est) line. This would be entirely satisfactory if one assumed that 
matter and force field were two completely different entities. 
But one is driven closer and closer to the conception that the 
mass of a particle is actually nothing but a field of force that 
is very strong at this point. Consequently "motion of mass" is 
nothing but a change of the force field in space. The laws for 
this change are the "field equations" that is, the laws that 
determine the force field. But if the motion of the body is al- 
ready determined by the field equations, then there is no more 
room for special laws of motion. One cannot make a supple- 
mentary assumption, in addition to the field equations, that 
masses move along geodesic lines. Instead these equations of 
motion must already be contained in the field equations. 

C. Lanczos, Einstein's co-worker in Berlin, had sketched the 
idea of deriving the laws of motion mathematically from the 
field equations. His derivation, however, did not appear satis- 
factory to Einstein, and in Princeton he succeeded in showing 
in a completely convincing way that only the field laws need 
be known in order to be able to derive the laws of motion from 
them. This is regarded as a confirmation of the idea that matter 
is nothing but a concentration of the field at certain points. 

I have already mentioned that Einstein liked to have the assist- 
ance of young physicists or mathematicians,, especially when he 


Einstein in the United States 

dealt with involved mathematical computations. From Berlin he 
had brought with him the Viennese mathematician Walter 
Mayer, who soon obtained an independent position at the In- 
stitute of Advanced Study and no longer collaborated with 
Einstein, During the first few years of Einstein's residence a 
very talented Polish physicist, Leopold Inf eld, came to Prince- 
ton, where he remained several years and with whom Einstein 
worked out the aforementioned proof of the "unity of field and 


Einstein liked to discuss with Infeld all kinds of problems, 
including the fundamental problems of physics and their de- 
velopment. These conversations gave rise to the book by Ein- 
stein and Infeld, Evolution of Physics, which has achieved a 
wide circulation. It is certainly one of the best presentations of 
the fundamental ideas of physics for the public at large. 

Infeld wrote also an autobiography entitled Quest: The Maf^- 
ing of a Scientist. This book contains much about Einstein's life 
at Princeton as seen by a keen observer and competent collabo- 

A second group of problems with which Einstein was in- 
tensely occupied at this time is the criticism of the development 
of the quantum theory, which has been described in Ch. IX. 
Einstein felt impelled to show by concrete examples that the 
quantum theory, in the "Copenhagen" form in which it had 
been formulated by Niels Bohr, did not describe a "physical 
reality," such as a field, but only the interaction of the field 
with a measuring instrument. A paper that Einstein published 
together with N. Rosen and B. Podolsky, two young physicists, 
was particularly important in this discussion. This paper shows 
by a simple example that the way in which the quantum theory 
describes the physical condition in a certain spatial area cannot 
be called a complete description of physical reality in this area. 

This work stimulated Niels Bohr to formulate more clearly 
than he had previously done his standpoint on the question of 
physical reality. Bohr now rejected definitely all the "mystical" 
interpretations to which his theory had been subjected. Among 
these was the conception that the "real state" in a spatial area 
is "destroyed" by observation, and similar ideas. He now stated 
clearly that the quantum theory did not describe any property of 
a field, but an interaction between field and measuring instru- 
ment. It is plain that one could not decide between the concep- 
tions of Einstein and Bohr by general logical considerations, since 
they were not opposed assertions, but rather opposed proposals. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Einstein proposed to retain tentatively a kind of description of 
the physical state in an area of space which was not too far from 
the way in which the language of daily life describes reality. 
This means that he proposed to describe the physical state in an 
area in such a manner that the description itself need not state 
with which measuring instrument it was obtained. Einstein has 
been well aware that it would not be absurd to abandon this kind 
of description where the laws of physics are formulated in terms 
of a "field"; but he would abandon it only if it became necessary 
beyond any doubt. 

The third and most exciting problem was his attempt to find 
the actual physical field that permits a formulation of physical 
laws for the subatomic phenomena in a form that is a generaliza- 
tion of the equations of the electromagnetic and gravitational 
fields. Einstein has collaborated in this task with two young men, 
one called Bergmann, the other Bargmann, a similarity that gave 
rise to many jokes. 

Every forenoon Einstein went regularly to his office at the 
Institute for Advanced Study, where he met either Peter Berg- 
mann or Valentin Bargmann or both of them. Einstein sug- 
gested to them various ways of conceiving the structure of space, 
not only as four-dimensional, but sometimes also as five-dimen- 
sional, so that the magnitudes that describe this geometrical 
structure could also furnish a description of the unified physical 
field of force. The real force field would then be found, if one 
could find relations between the described magnitudes, from 
which the actual laws of observable phenomena can be derived 
in all domains of physics, including atomic and nuclear physics. 

The difficulties of this task proved to be even greater than had 
been supposed. At present it seems that all the paths that have 
previously been tried do not lead to the goal Recently, Einstein 
has probed new field equations and he has by no means aban- 
doned the hope that electrons and protons will turn out to be 
just particular fields. Despite the tremendous range of experi- 
mental confirmation of Bohr's "positivistic" Theory it remains, 
according to Einstein, still an open question, whether it is not 
possible to derive the same observable facts from a field theory 
and to save the historic conception of a physical reality inde- 
pendent of the devices of observation and measurement. 

Besides the regular work connected with the Institute, Ein- 
stein had to occupy a part of his time as an adviser of young men 
with interest or ambition in science. It had often been Einstein's 
fate to be judged not only as an individual, but as a type in- 


Einstein in the United States 

deed, even more, as the symbol of a certain group of people. This 
fate was all the more painful for him as there was nothing that 
he liked less than to be classified as a member of a party or a 
group. As he had come out courageously for the cause of the 
Jewish people he has been expected to play the part of a leader 
or at least of a representative of his people both by the enemies of 
the Jews and by the Jews themselves. The life of Einstein has 
been regarded as symbolizing the fate of a people, often talented, 
but often attacked and driven into isolation. Therefore among 
the people who looked for Einstein's advice there were many 
young Jews who wrote letters to him appealing for his help. In 
some degree he has played the role among the Jews that Tolstoy 
at one time had played among Russian youth. Poor young Jews 
looked upon Einstein as one of their people who had made good 
and who was so world-renowned that boundless power and 
wealth were ascribed to him. This was, I dare say, a great mis- 
take. Neither his fortune nor his influence has corresponded 
even remotely to his fame. 

Very often young people of any background turned to him for 
advice about beginning an academic career for which they felt 
they were equipped instead of turning to some mechanical work 
in an office or a shop. Einstein was always ready to advise what he 
considered proper and was interested in each one's personal 
situation. However, as we have learnt, Einstein also believed that 
it was a good thing to earn a living by means of a " cobbler's 
trade " and to devote one's spare time to study. 

Einstein never liked to speak about the material and moral 
help he provided for distressed people. I recall several cases, 
however, that I was able to observe myself. Einstein remained 
interested in students whom he had helped to enter a university, 
and continued to watch them as they progressed with their 
studies. He advised them with which teachers to study, which 
books to read, and even sent them books himself. I remember 
one such case very clearly. 

It concerned a student from one of the Balkan countries. Upon 
Einstein's advice he had applied to the university in Prague, 
where he was admitted. Einstein asked me to take an interest in 
him and so he consulted me when he had trouble. The student 
lived on a stipend that he received from a big manufacturer in his 
native land. But this money, which barely sufficed for himself, 
the student used to enable his brothers and sisters to study as well. 
The fact that one of the greatest men of our time was watching 
his studies was the great event of his life and filled even the 


Einstein: His Lije and Times 

minutest experience with a remarkable splendor. When the 
young man first turned to Einstein, the latter was still in Berlin, 
but when the young man arrived in Prague Einstein was already 
in America. The student wrote to Einstein telling him about 
every phase, even the most trivial, of his studies; and frequently 
he received answers from America that gave him extremely de- 
tailed advice. When the student met with difficulties in his rela- 
tions with teachers or fellow students, he asked Einstein's advice 
as to how he should behave. Einstein usually advised him to be 
conciliatory. This was certainly very good advice for this young 
man, as he became involved in various conflicts in the unfamiliar 
environment. He was naturally filled with pride because he was 
distinguished from all the other students of physics by the fact 
that he corresponded personally with the greatest physicist of our 

There is little wonder that occasionally a student in this situa- 
tion imagined himself as Einstein's representative to such a de- 
gree that he regarded all insults to him as insults to Einstein. He 
would even feel that he was a martyr, happy at being permitted 
to suffer for Einstein, and finally even came to believe that by 
being connected with Einstein he was making a sacrifice and 
getting himself into trouble. 

4. Refugee Scholars 

As the persecution of the Jews increased in Germany 
and her satellite countries, the number of scientists, writers, 
artists, teachers, and others who wished to find haven in the 
United States grew larger and larger. As when a large quantity 
of good merchandise is thrown on the market at reduced prices, 
economic repercussions occur, even inflation, so when these refu- 
gee scholars offered themselves, great difficulties were encoun- 

The new immigration began while the United States was 
still in the midst of the great economic crisis. This was, of 
course, not an accidental coincidence since without the world- 
wide depression the Nazi revolution in Germany would not 
have occurred. As the number of immigrants increased, fan- 
tastic rumors began to be spread about them. It was frequently 
said that the refugees were not pioneers; they did not per- 
form any constructive work as the earlier immigrants had done, 


Einstein in the United States 

but they wanted only to get rich without working or to live 
on charity. Many regarded and feared them as professional 
competitors, many simply used them as scapegoats whom they 
could blame for various ills. Skillful agitators were even able 
to convince people that enormous numbers of such immigrants 
would soon change the national and racial composition of the 
people of the United States. 

When Bertrand Russell, the English mathematician and phi- 
losopher, because of his critical attitude to traditional views on 
marriage and religion, was prevented from being appointed as 
professor of philosophy at the College of the City of New York, 
Einstein backed him. He felt that it was harmful for the develop- 
ment of science when attacks of personal and political opponents 
could prevent the appointment of a scientifically outstanding 
professor. Russell's enemies, however, used Einstein's support 
for their own aims. They wrote letters to newspapers contain- 
ing such statements as: "How dare the 'nudist' Russell and the 
'refugee' Einstein interfere in the family life of the United 
States!" The use of the words "nudist" and "refugee" as equally 
disparaging characteristics is noteworthy. 

Every institution that wanted to appoint one of the refugee 
scholars was in a dilemma. On the one hand, the American uni- 
versities were quite ready to help the victims of political persecu- 
tions and were glad to have the opportunity of acquiring men 
of great ability, but, on the other hand, they had a responsibility 
to their own graduates who were looking for academic posi- 
tions. It would have been a severe disappointment for them to 
have positions unexpectedly filled by scholars from Europe who 
were naturally older and had greater reputation. 

This situation also placed those refugee scholars who had al- 
ready obtained a position in a difficulty. They felt morally ob- 
ligated to help their countrymen and fellow sufferers who had 
been less fortunate, but they also felt obliged to look after the 
interests of their students primarily. Some of them even went so 
far as to say that it was the duty of every refugee scholar who had 
a position to see to it that no other refugee obtained one at the 
same institution. 

For Einstein the situation was even more difficult. Here again 
he came to be regarded as the symbol and leader of the entire 
group of refugee scholars. The friends of the refugees upheld 
Einstein as an example of the outstanding men who were com- 
ing to the United States, while their opponents felt themselves 
compelled to disparage him in order to oppose the refugee 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

group. The refugees themselves looked upon Einstein as their 
natural leader. They felt that with his fame he would some- 
how be able to help them, and they turned to him for help. 

Einstein received hundreds of letters from scholars in Europe 
who wanted to emigrate and who asked his aid in getting them 
a position or an "affidavit of support/' required under the Amer- 
ican immigration regulations. Einstein tried hard to help them, 
and he even made out such affidavits himself for many. Others 
immediately turned to Einstein on their arrival in America. He 
did the best he could, but naturally the number of persons 
whom he was actually able to help was very small in comparison 
with the enormous number who appealed to him. 

In recommending foreign scholars for positions, Einstein as 
always had only two considerations in mind: the immediate 
feeling of sympathy for every suffering person, and the convic- 
tion that the pursuit of science should be assisted wherever pos- 
sible. He was always ready to write recommendations for these 
people. He thought that if a foreign scientist was needed, his 
recommendation would be of some help, and if this were not 
the case, it would not hurt either the person recommended or 
the institution. 

Einstein might have done more for the refugees if he had un- 
dertaken to study the situation at various universities and to 
take advantage of the personal, economic, and political factors 
involved, but such an action was not possible for him. The peo- 
ple who are the most outstanding intellectually and also the 
kindest are not always very practical. This explains the con- 
tradictory opinions about Einstein. Some people felt that he was 
kind and devoted, others that he cared little for the fate of in- 

While co-operating sincerely in charitable social and political 
organization Einstein will suddenly tell you: "Sincerely speak- 
ing I have never been much interested in people but only in 
things." And if you ask him what he meant by "things" he 
would say: "physical phenomena and methods to handle them." 

The psychological situation of these new refugees also had 
its difficulties. Many came from Germany, which they had al- 
ways considered their native land and with whose intellectual 
and cultural life they felt themselves united. They had been 
driven out, but that did not mean that they had therefore lost 
all connection with it. They came to a foreign country that gave 
them a friendly reception and made it possible for them to 
start a new life, which was sometimes even better than the life 


Einstein in the United States 

in their former country. If they laid too great an emphasis on 
their connection with German culture, they could easily arouse 
a feeling of antagonism to themselves in the new country. 

On the other hand, owing to the circumstances leading to 
their emigration, they were strongly opposed, both politically 
and culturally, to the ruling circles in Germany. As a result, 
they were accused on the one hand of propaganda in favor of 
German culture, and on the other hand of carrying on hate 
propaganda that might create enmity between the United States 
and Germany or even involve them in war. Remarkably enough, 
these contradictory accusations were often made at the same 

Einstein himself was often surprised that the new immigrants 
from Germany still remained so much attached to their old 
country. It was a special puzzle to him why the Jewish refugees, 
who had suffered so much in Germany, still had such a strong 
yearning for that country. As Erika and Klaus Mann reported, 
Einstein on one occasion told this story: 

"I met a young German lawyer who is living in New York, a so- 
called Aryan, and asked him whether he was homesick. 'Homesick?' 
he said. 1 ? What for? I am not a Jew.' 

"Isn't that a good one?" Einstein added. "Isn't that typical? Isn't 
the nationalism of the Jews sentimental and lachrymose, a sullen and 
morose love for a country such as is to be found only among people 
who do not feel sure which country is theirs?" 

"I am also a Jew," continued Einstein, "but yet everything seems to 
me so fine in America that I am not homesick for any country, to say 
nothing of Herr Hitler's Germany." 

We know Einstein's aversion against the inhuman mechanical 
attitude of the German ruling caste under the Kaiser, let alone 
under Hitler. Equally strong, however, is his love for the Ger- 
man music of Bach and Mozart. In certain respects, perhaps, he 
even shares the tastes of the German nationalists in art. He dis- 
likes "modern" music and finds it rather repugnant. Generally, 
he likes everything German that derives from the spirit of the 
pre-Bismarckian and pre-Wilhelminian period. He has been 
happy with visitors imbued with the spirit of classical German 
music and literature. He is even quite sympathetic to the Kan- 
tian philosophy, partly perhaps because of its emotional relation- 
ship with that period of the German spirit. He has this sympa- 
thetic feeling for it although on purely scientific grounds he has 
rejected it in all essential points. 

I have been struck by the fact that despite his emphasized hos- 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

tility to the spirit of a Germany ruled by Prussian militarists, he 
has always been fond of conversing with men for instance, 
German- American ministers, in whom the older German spirit 
had somehow been preserved. 

In America Einstein had often been regarded officially as a 
leader of the Jewish people. When the World's Fair was opened 
in New York in 1939-40, Palestine was represented by a pa- 
vilion. Since it was customary, at the opening of a pavilion, for 
the ambassador of the particular country to deliver an address, 
the question arose who should deliver such an address at the 
opening of the Palestinian pavilion. The choice did not fall 
upon a political leader of the Zionists, nor on a rabbi, but instead 
on Einstein, who was thus officially recognized as a kind of 
spiritual leader of the Jews. 

5. Einstein's Attitude toward Religion 

To understand Einstein in its attitude to the Jewish peo- 
ple, one must understand his attitude to traditional Biblical re- 
ligion and to religion in general. Would not a man like Ein- 
stein, whose unsparing criticism had removed the last remnants 
of medieval semi-theological conceptions from physics, assume 
a purely critical attitude to the religion of the Bible ? Ever since 
his arrival in America this aspect of his personality has been 
much in the limelight. In this country people are more interested 
than in Europe in the problem of the relation between science 
and religion, and they feel more strongly the need for a mutual 
understanding between them. 

Einstein's attitude toward traditional religion is related in 
turn to his divided attitude to social relations in general 
When I first became acquainted with Einstein, around 1910, I 
had the impression that he was not sympathetic to any kind of 
traditional religion. At the time of his appointment to Prague 
he had again joined the Jewish religious community, but he 
looked at this act rather as at a formality. At this time, too, his 
children were about to enter elementary school, where they 
would receive religious instruction. This was a rather difficult 
problem as he belonged to the Jewish religion and his wife to 
Greek Orthodox. "Anyway," said Einstein, "I dislike very much 
that my children should be taught something that is contrary to 
all scientific thinking." And he recalled jokingly the manner 


Einstein in the United States 

In which school children are told about God. "Eventually the 
children believe that God is some kind of gaseous vertebrate/' 
This was an allusion to a saying of the German scientist and 
philosopher Ernst Haeckel that was then current. 

At that time a superficial observer would easily have settled 
the question of Einstein's attitude to religion with the word 
"sceptical" Perhaps characteristic of this attitude is a remark that 
Einstein made to an orthodox Jew whom he once met at a 
police station in Prague, where I had gone with him to obtain a 
visa for a passport. The man asked Einstein if he knew a restau- 
rant in Prague where the food was strictly kosher that is, 
prepared according to the ritualistic precepts, Einstein men- 
tioned the name of a hotel that was known to be kosher. The 
man asked Einstein: "Is this hotel really strictly kosher?" This 
annoyed Einstein somewhat and he said seriously: "Actually 
only an ox eats strictly kosher." The pious man was hurt and 
looked indignantly at Einstein. The latter, however, explained 
that his statement was not offensive at all but quite objective 
and innocent: "An ox eats grass, and that is the only strictly 
kosher food because nothing has been done to it." 

Einstein's attitude reflects often the immediate response of a 
genius which is similar to that of an intelligent child. The world 
is not judged in the traditional way, but as reason suggests. If 
this judgment is expressed without any of the traditional eu- 
phemisms, it is often called "cynical"; but it should be called 
rather "sincere with a sense of humor." 

Einstein was once told that a physicist, whose intellectual ca- 
pacities were rather mediocre, had been run over by a bus and 
killed. He remarked sympathetically: "Too bad about his body." 

On another occasion Einstein was invited by a committee 
organized to honor a well-known scholar to take part in the cele- 
bration of his seventieth birthday and to address the gathering. 
Einstein replied to this committee: "I hold the man whom you 
are honoring in high esteem and I like him very much. For this 
reason I will arrange a dinner in his honor all alone at my home 
on his birthday. Since no audience will be present, I will simply 
keep the speech to myself. Wouldn't it be more convenient for 
you and the scholar whom you are honoring if you did the 

His manner of speech is often an expression of the urge to 
make the serious things in the world tolerable by means of a 
playful disguise, a form of behavior that is ultimately the basis 
of all artistic activity. The use of such caustic words was for 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Einstein an artistic way of coming to terms with the world, like 
the playing of a Mozart sonata, which also represents the evil 
of the world in a playful manner. In a certain sense all of Mo- 
zart's music might be called "cynical." It does not take our tragic 
world very seriously and reflects it in gay, youthful rhythms. 

To understand Einstein's views on religion seriously it is good 
to start from his conception of physical science and of science in 
general As I have already repeatedly emphasized, the general 
laws of science, according to Einstein, are not products of induc- 
tion or generalization but rather products of free imagination 
which have to be tested by physical observations. In his Oxford 
address Einstein asks: 

"If it is the case that the axiomatic basis of theoretical physics can- 
not be an inference from experience, but must be free invention, have 
we any right to hope that we shall find the correct way ? Still more 
does this correct approach exist at all save in our imagination?'* 

To Einstein the physical theory is a product of human in- 
ventiveness, the correctness of which can be judged only on the 
basis of its logical simplicity and the agreement of its observable 
consequences with experience. This is exactly the description of 
a theory and the criterion of its validity which has been advocated 
by the Logical fositlmsts. To them the belief in the "existence of 
a correct theory" means the "hope to make a certain invention." 
The expression "the correct form of a theory" has no more mean- 
ing than "the correct form of an airplane" what is obviously a 
meaningless expression. 

But here Einstein deviates definitely from the conception of 
Logical Positivism. In his Oxford lecture he replied to the ques- 
tion whether there is a "correct way" as follows: 

"To this I answer with complete assurance that in my opinion there 
is the correct path and, moreover, that it is in our power to find it. 
Our experience up to date justifies us in feeling sure that in nature 
is actualized the idea of mathematical simplicity. 

"It is my conviction that pure mathematical construction enables us 
to discover the concepts and the laws connecting them, which give us 
the key to the understanding of the phenomena of nature. Experi- 
ence can, of course, guide us in our choice of serviceable mathematical 
concepts; it cannot possibly be the source from which they are derived. 

"In a certain sense, therefore, I hold it to be true that pure thought 
is competent to comprehend the real as the ancients dreamed." 

Here Einstein even goes so far as to use the language of ideal- 
istic philosophy, of the advocates of an aprioristic knowledge 


Einstein in the United States 

that is, knowledge independent of experience although he 
has been a decided opponent of this philosophy. Nevertheless, 
in order to emphasize as strongly as possible his opposition to 
some oversimplifications current under the name of "positivism" 
he employs a mode of expression that can easily be misunder- 
stood by those who have only a superficial knowledge of Ein- 
stein's views. 

The difference between Einstein's views and those "dreams of 
the ancients" to whom he felt related is the following: Accord- 
ing to the views of the ancient philosophers the power of intui- 
tion suffices to advance propositions that do not need to be tested 
by experience. But this is not what Einstein actually means. He 
means that the inventive faculty presents us with various pos- 
sibilities for the construction of mathematical theories, among 
which only experience can decide. 

The conviction of which Einstein spoke, and for which, nat- 
urally, no cogent reasons can be given, is the following: among 
the theories there will some day be one which in its logical 
simplicity as well as in its simple representation of observation 
will be so greatly superior to all rival theories that everyone will 
recognize it as the best in every respect. This conviction is noth- 
ing but an expression of scientific optimism. It is an expression 
of belief in a certain constitution of observable nature, which has 
been often called a "belief in the rationality of nature." 

The existence of such logical pictures of nature is a character- 
istic that is not self-evident, but which we recognize by experi- 
ence and which we may call the "rationality of nature," if we 
prefer to employ the terminology of traditional philosophy. 
This terminology is usually employed when one wishes to ex- 
press one's sympathy with certain feelings that are customarily 
expressed with great beauty in the language of that philosophy. 
Amazement at this rational aspect of nature turns into admira- 
tion; and this admiration is, in Einstein's opinion, one of the 
strongest roots of religious feeling. 

When we speak of the existence of a logical system that cor- 
responds to natural processes, the term "existence" means in 
everyday language only that there are thinking beings similar 
to men which can imagine such a system. If we speak of the 
"existence" of such a system without relating it to a thinking 
being, it is an obscure mode of expression. If we do connect it 
with a thinking being, we imagine more or less vaguely a being 
similar to man with superior intellectual capacities. Conse- 
quently, to speak of the "rationality" of the world always means 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

to think vaguely of a spirit superior to man and yet similar to 
Mm. In this way Einstein's conception of nature is related to 
what is usually called a "religious" conception of the world. 
Einstein knows very well that this is not a statement about 
nature that is in any way scientific, but that it expresses a feeling 
aroused by the contemplation of nature. In this connection he 
once said: 

"The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. 
It is the sower of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is 
a stranger,, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as 
good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, 
manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, 
which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive 
forms this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true re- 
ligiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks 
of devoutly religious men." 

According to Einstein's conception, it is particularly the sci- 
entist in the field of natural science, and especially in the field 
of mathematical physics, who has this mystical experience. Here 
is the root of what Einstein calls "cosmic religion." He once said: 

"The cosmic religious experience is the strongest and the noblest, 
deriving from behind scientific research. No one who does not ap- 
preciate the terrific exertions, the devotion, without which pioneer 
creation in scientific thought cannot come into being can judge the 
strength of the feeling out of which alone such work, turned away 
as it is from immediate practical life, can grow. 

"What deep faith in the rationality of the structure of the world, 
what a longing to understand even a small glimpse of the reason 
revealed in the world, there must have been in Kepler and Newton!" 

In recent years the view has frequently been put forth that the 
physical theories of the twentieth century, especially Einstein's 
theory of relativity and the quantum structure of energy, have a 
great significance for the mitigation of the conflict between 
religion and science. Since Einstein has spoken of a "cosmic reli- 
gion" based on science he has been often quoted as an advocate 
of that view. This, however, is a great misunderstanding. With 
his clear insight into the logical structure of a scientific theory, he 
has never encouraged the religious interpretation of recent phys- 
ics which became current by the popular books of such scientists, 
as Jeans and Eddington. 

For Einstein religion is both a mystical feeling toward the laws 


Einstein in the United States 

of the universe and a feeling of moral obligation toward his fel- 
low men as well. Nevertheless, the strictly logical-empirical char- 
acter of his thought prevents him from assuming a scientific 
or apparently scientific link between these two feelings. We may 
feel a hint of it in music, which expresses what cannot be formu- 
lated in words. 

This feeling, however, has been misunderstood by some peo- 
ple, since Einstein has never placed any importance on the formal 
aspects of religion. It was striking how readily Einstein used the 
word "God" as a figurative expression, even in physics. It will 
be recalled that he had repeatedly expressed his rejection of the 
statistical conception of physics with the statement: "I cannot 
believe that God plays dice with the world." It is certain that 
the word "God" is used here only as a figure of speech and not 
in a theological sense. Other physicists, however, do not em- 
ploy this figure of speech with equal readiness. One of Einstein's 
finest remarks, which is recorded on a wall in the Institute of 
Advanced Study at Princeton, expresses his conception of the 
nature of physical science by means of the same figure of speech. 
Einstein wants to say that from a mathematical standpoint the 
system of physical laws is very complex, and that to under- 
stand it very great mathematical capacities are required. Never- 
theless, he has hope that nature actually obeys a system of mathe- 
matical laws, and that the human mind can find these laws if 
it allows itself to be led by its scientific judgment. All this is 
expressed by the aforementioned remark: 
"God is sophisticated, but he is not malicious." 
In the fall of 1940 a conference was held in New York to 
discuss what contributions science, philosophy, and religion 
could make to the cause of American democracy. Einstein was 
among those asked to address the conference. At first he did 
not want to write anything, as he disliked to attract public 
attention to himself, especially in political matters. Nevertheless, 
as the aim of the conference appealed to him, he allowed him- 
self, even though he would not appear and speak in person, to 
be induced to send a written contribution, entitled "Science and 
Religion." In it he said: 

"The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres 
of religion and of science lies in the concept of a personal God. It is 
the aim of science to establish general rules which determine the 
reciprocal conceptions of objects in time and space. ... It is mainly 
a program, and faith in the possibility of its accomplishment in prin- 
ciple is only founded on partial success. But hardly anyone could be 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

found who would deny these partial successes and ascribe them to 
human self-deception. . . . 

"The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all 
events, the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left 
by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. 
For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists 
as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure the doctrine 
of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be 
refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take 
refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet 
been established. . . . 

"To the sphere of religion belongs the faith that the regulations 
valid for the world of existence are rational, that it is comprehensible 
to reason, I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that pro- 
found faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science 
without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." 

There is apparently nothing sensational or shocking in these 
sentences. Those scientists who were willing to concede to re- 
ligion an important place in human life have generally found 
that Einstein formulated just what they thought. On the other 
hand, there are certainly many scientists who take it much amiss 
that Einstein even mentions religion and spirituality in the 
same breath with science. 

Suddenly, however, a number of people appeared with the 
cry: "Einstein wants to deprive us of our personal God." "It is 
this very personal element in God," they said, "that is most 
precious to man." Einstein received innumerable letters, many 
containing vehement accusations to the effect that he wanted to 
rob people of such a beneficial faith. Letters to the editor ap- 
peared in newspapers, in which the writers protested against 
permitting a "refugee" to meddle with the belief in God. 

There were Christian clergymen who asserted that the ex- 
pression "personal God" was characteristic of the Christian God 
in contradistinction to the Jewish God, and that Einstein was 
carrying on a polemic against the Christian conception of God. 
Actually Einstein knew nothing of these subtleties of Christian 
and Jewish theology. On the contrary he wanted to emphasize 
the common ground of liberal Judaism and liberal Christianity 
in their conception of God. But here again, as in so many in- 
stances, his well-meant intentions involved him in odious and 
malicious polemics, which he could not have foreseen. 

As in most other points, Einstein advocated practically posi- 
tivistic views concerning the relations of the exact sciences and of 
science in general to human conduct. To the question whether 


Einstein in the United States 

the goal of human life could be derived from science only, Ein- 
stein, like positivism, replied with a decided "No." Like logical 
positivism, Einstein is of the opinion that no matter what degree 
of mathematical simplicity and beauty the laws of nature 
exhibit, no matter how well they reflect observation, they can 
never tell us what man's aims in life should be. From natural 
laws we learn only how nature behaves, how we can utilize 
these forces to realize human aims, not what these aims should 

These aims man can learn only by example and indoctrina- 
tion. It is this indoctrination that Einstein believes to be the 
task of the church, not the preaching of a certain conception of 

Because Einstein is profoundly convinced that science, even 
when most highly developed, cannot present man with a goal, 
he is far from disputing the usefulness of church organizations. 
He does not care for religious ritual, but he realizes the value 
of churches and religious services as means of education; and 
in so far as the ritual increases the effect of indoctrination, he has 
learned to appreciate the value of religious ceremony. 

Einstein's views on the responsibility of the church for moral 
education may be seen, perhaps, in an address that he delivered 
in the summer of 1939 in the theological seminar at Princeton 
before an audience of clergymen and students of theology. The 
title of the lecture was "The Goal. 5 ' Among other things he 

"It is certainly true that principles cannot be more securely founded 
than on experience and consciously clear thinking. In this one will 
have to agree absolutely with the extreme rationalists. The weak point 
of the conception, however, lies in the fact that those principles which 
are decisive and necessary for our actions and judgments of value 
cannot be obtained only in this scientific way. The scientific method 
cannot teach us anything but the conceptual comprehension of the 
reciprocal relations among facts. The endeavor to obtain such ob- 
jective knowledge is one of the loftiest aspirations of which man is 
capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of underrating the 
heroic efforts and achievements of the human mind in this field. On 
the other hand, however, it is clear that no path leads from a knowl- 
edge of that which is to that which should be. No matter how clear 
and perfect our knowledge of present existence, no goal for our 
human aspirations can be inferred from it. ... No matter how 
splendid the knowledge of truth as such may be, as a guide it is 30 
impotent that it is not even able to establish the justification and the 
value of this very striving for a knowledge of the truth. . . . 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

"Reason apprises us of the interdependence of aims and values, 
What thought alone cannot give us are the ultimate and most funda- 
mental goals, in terms of which the more secondary ones are oriented. 
The setting up of the most fundamental goals and valuations and 
their establishment in the life of the individual seem to me to be the 
most important function of religion in the social life of man. If one 
should ask whence these fundamental goals receive their authority, 
since they are not set up by reason and cannot be founded upon it, 
one can only answer that they do not come into existence as a result 
of argument and proof, but instead by revelation, and through the 
actions of strong personalities. One should not attempt to prove 
them, but rather to recognize their essence as clearly and purely as 

"The most fundamental principles of our aspirations and valua- 
tions are given to us in the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. It is a 
lofty goal. . . . When one divests this goal of its religious form and 
regards only this purely human side, it may be expressed as follows: 

"Free and self-responsible development of the individual so that 
he will freely and joyfully put his energies at the service of the com- 
munity of man. If attention is paid to the content and not to the 
form, the same words may be considered as the expression of the 
fundamental democratic principle. The true democrat deifies his 
nation just as little as the religious person in our sense does." 

Einstein's conception of the relation between religion and sci- 
ence is very similar to that prevailing in the liberal Protestant 
churches of America. As an example one need only cite the 
views of an outstanding representative of American science 
such as Robert Millikan. According to this conception, science 
can never be criticized or directed by religion, since it deals with 
very different aspects of human life. Millikan once said: 

"Let me show why in the nature of things there can be no conflict. 
This appears as soon as one attempts to define what is the place of 
religion in human life. The purpose of science is to develop without 
prejudice a knowledge of the facts and the laws of nature. The even 
more important task of religion, on the other hand, is to develop the 
conscience, the ideals and the aspirations of mankind." 

This conception of religion abandons completely any demand 
for belief in any specific scientific or historical facts, and regards 
religion as a social institution, the purpose of which is to promote 
a certain attitude toward life and a certain type of behavior in 
our daily living. Einstein's conception of religion fits in very 
well with this general attitude. Consequently we can under- 
stand why English and American clergymen in particular have 
been so much interested in Einstein. 


Einstein in the United States 

6. Beginning of the Atomic Age 

The dramatic climax with which the second World 
War was brought to an end by the atomic bomb again brought 
Einstein's name to public attention. The result that he had de- 
rived from his special theory o relativity in 1905 namely, 
that mass and energy are equivalent was demonstrated to 
the world with almost incredible force of destruction. 

As was mentioned in Section 7 of Chapter III, there are nu- 
clear transformations in which a part of the mass of the atomic 
nucleus is transformed into energy. Numerous such reactions 
were discovered by scientists, but in all cases the energy required 
to perform the transformation was much greater than that ob- 
tained from the reaction. Hence the practical use of nuclear 
transformations as a source of power did not seem feasible. 

The whole picture changed, however, with the discovery by 
Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner of the fission of uranium. These 
scientists at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin found that 
when uranium is bombarded with neutrons, its nucleus some- 
times breaks up into two more or less equal parts with the lib- 
eration of a tremendous quantity of energy. When this news 
was communicated to other laboratories, the startling result was 
immediately confirmed. Furthermore, Enrico Fermi, an Italian 
physicist who had fled to the United States from the Fascist 
regime, pointed out the possibility, which was soon found to 
be true, that this breaking up of the uranium nucleus is ac- 
companied by the production of several neutrons. The impor- 
tant significance of this last discovery lies in the fact that this 
process, named the "fission" of uranium, may be made self- 
sustaining. Once the process is started, the neutrons produced 
by the fission of one uranium nucleus can cause others to break 
up, and the neutrons from these can, in turn, cause other fis- 
sions. Thus a self-perpetuating nuclear "chain reaction," in 
which a large number of nuclei breaks up with the consequent 
liberation of a tremendous amount of energy, became a pos- 
sibility. Calculations showed that as much energy would be re- 
leased by the fission of a pound of uranium as by the burning 
of thousands of tons of coal 

It soon became evident to many scientists that this liberation 
of energy may be made to take place almost instantaneously, 
and that consequently uranium bombs with millions of times 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

the destructive power of ordinary explosives could be produced. 
It was also evident to them that if such an instrument came into 
the hands of the fascist nations, they would use it in their war 
of aggression, and civilization would then be doomed. Such 
apprehensions were felt especially strongly by those scientists 
who had fled from the persecutions in their native countries. 
Two physicists at Columbia University, a Hungarian named 
Leo Szilard, who had fled from the University of Berlin, and 
the aforementioned Fermi, became convinced that the military 
authorities in the United States ought to be informed about 
this possibility. Moreover, Szilard realized that unless this prob- 
lem was taken to a government official in a very high position, 
their words would not be heeded. He had been acquainted with 
Einstein in Berlin and it seemed to Szilard that Einstein's great 
reputation and world-wide recognition as a physicist could be 
used to convince the authorities of the importance of this prob- 
lem. He therefore got in contact with Eugene Wigner, another 
Hungarian physicist, then teaching at Princeton University, and 
in July 1939 they conferred with Einstein. 

At that time the average engineer, civilian or military, re- 
garded the theory of relativity as something very bookish, which 
only impractical college professors talked about and which 
would never have any industrial application. And as for nuclear 
physics, he had not even heard of it. It was therefore obvious 
that the problem of interesting the government in the prac- 
tical use of atomic energy and of obtaining funds for its de- 
velopment was a difficult one. To these scientists it seemed that 
if anybody would respond to such a suggestion, it was Presi- 
dent Roosevelt. He had been aware of the Nazi policy of ag- 
gression from the very beginning, and he was fully cognizant 
of the threat to the future security of this country. Moreover, 
he was not as firmly convinced of the foolishness of college pro- 
fessors as most politicians are. 

In view of these circumstances, Szilard and Fermi suggested 
to Einstein that he make a direct appeal to the President. 

As we have already seen, Einstein disliked becoming involved 
in public affairs, and he felt a special reluctance to give advice 
on military affairs and to encourage the development of the 
most devastating weapon yet discovered by man. On the other 
hand, he was convinced that the Nazis would be in possession 
of atomic power in the near future and would use it to subdue 
the rest of the world. With the responsibility that he felt in his 


Einstein in the United States 

exceptional position as the most famous scientist in this country, 
he realized what his duty was. 

On August 2, 1939 Einstein addressed a letter to President 
Roosevelt, which began: 

"Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard which has been 
communicated to me in manuscript leads me to expect that the ele- 
ment Uranium may be turned into a new and important source of 
energy in the immediate future. ... A single bomb of this type . . . 
exploded in a port . . . might very well destroy the whole port, to- 
gether with the surrounding territory. . . ." 

Furthermore, Einstein advised the President of the probability 
that research in this field might be far advanced in Germany, 
and stressed the great danger that the United States would incur 
if the Nazis got hold of such a bomb. Einstein suggested that a 
special organization with a staff of scientists who had devoted 
themselves to nuclear research should be created to carry on the 
investigations on the practical use of uranium. 

The result of this project which was so dramatically made 
public and the subsequent publicity concerning the organiza- 
tion and development of the Manhattan Project, as it was later 
called, are too well known by now to need reiteration here. 

The immediate reaction of the American people to the an- 
nouncement of the atomic bomb and the Japanese surrender, 
which soon followed, was the feeling of relief that the war was 
over and of pride that the United States had proved to be in 
the lead in science. 

The scientists who had worked on the development of the 
atomic bomb, however, saw in it a political implication that 
gave them cause for alarm. The war had been brought to an 
end with a brilliant victory for the democracies, but the estab- 
lishment of peace seemed to lead to an impasse. An atmosphere 
of distrust had arisen among the Allies which could easily sow 
the seed for another war. Moreover, the atomic bomb now made 
it possible for an aggressor nation to make a surprise attack that 
would practically annihilate its opponent within a few minutes. 
The scientists felt the full weight of the responsibility that they 
had created, and they began to take action in educating the Con- 
gress and the public in general. They wanted the whole nation 
to realize the full gravity of the situation. The "secret" of the 
atomic bomb would be shortlived and there is no adequate de- 
fense agaiast it. 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

For Einstein, who had been instrumental both in the develop- 
ment of the basic theory and in the approach to President Roose- 
velt, the responsibility weighed doubly hard. He agreed whole- 
heartedly with the scientists like Oppenheimer and Shapley who 
tried their best to explain the full implications of the new 
weapon to the politicians and the military authorities. Ein- 
stein, however, has always disliked getting involved in politics 
and he was never willing to compromise his views with the 
troubles of the next day. He is in full agreement with the view 
expressed by Emery Reves in his book The Anatomy of Peace, 
in which we read: "We must grasp the fact that it is necessary 
to limit the sovereignty of nations and to establish a world gov- 
ernment which will regulate the relations between nations by 
law, as the United States, for example, now regulates the rela- 
tions between states." For this reason Einstein is not satisfied 
with the suggestion to hand over the secret of the atomic bomb 
to the principal members of the United Nations or even to the 
United Nations organization itself. 

Since no world government exists at present, however, Ein- 
stein's view seems to suggest that the secret should remain for 
the time being with the original manufacturers, the United 
States, Great Britain, and Canada. Hence, he was accused by 
some people of being idealistic and impractical and by others of 
being reactionary and taking sides with the "brass hats." 

When I discussed with Einstein recently his views on the 
international aspects of the atomic bomb he protested vehe- 
mently against these interpretations of his views. He realizes 
exactly that the "control of atomic energy" is primarily not a 
technical but a political problem which cannot be solved except 
in the form of a peace settlement between the big nations. Every 
"control" requires an international agreement that entrusts 
agents with the supervision of the war research and industry of 
all nations. Such an agreement presupposes a high degree of 
mutual trust, and if such a trust exists, there will be no danger 
of war, bomb or no bomb. 

Einstein realizes that this vicious circle cannot be broken 
by singling out the "control of atomic energy" but only by a 
comprehensive territorial and economic agreement. He hopes 
that the fear of atomic warfare may become so great that govern- 
ments and people will be prepared to sacrifice their sovereignty 
to a greater degree than they would without this threat, 


Einstein in the United States 

7. Life in Princeton 

Einstein's wife Elsa died in 1936. She had been strongly at- 
tached emotionally to her German homeland., and after losing 
her, Einstein became even more strongly linked to his new 
country. His first wife never left Switzerland, but their eldest 
son, who had been born in Bern at the time of Einstein's first 
great discoveries, is now also active in the United States as an 
engineer. Of Einstein's two stepdaughters, one died after leav- 
ing Germany; the other, Mar got, a talented scupltress, was di- 
vorced from her husband and now lives mostly with Einstein in 

In 1939 Einstein's only sister Maja moved from Florence, Italy, 
to Princeton. She is married to the son of that teacher Winteler 
of the cantonal school of Aarau, to whom Einstein had been 
strongly attracted. She had felt uneasy because of the increasing 
Nazi influences in Italy. Her husband returned to Switzerland 
temporarily, while she visited her brother. Her manner of speak- 
ing and the sound of her voice, as well as the childlike and yet 
skeptical formulation of every statement, are unusually similar 
to her brother's mode of expression. It is amazing to listen to her ; 
it arouses a sense of uneasiness to find a replica of even the minor 
traits of a genius. Nevertheless, there is also a certain feeling of 
reassurance at seeing even the greatest genius as a link in a chain 
of ordinary natural events. 

Since 1928 Einstein's secretary and later his housekeeper is 
Miss Helen Dukas. She is trim, intelligent, and energetic. She is 
a native of Einstein's Swabian homeland,, and comes from the 
same small place as Elsa Einstein. These three women now form 
Einstein's immediate environment. 

In 1933 when Einstein came to the United States he had only 
a visitor's visa. Under the American immigration law there is 
no place within the country where one can obtain permission 
to become a permanent resident of the United States. Such per- 
mission can be given only by an American consul, and these 
officers are only to be found in foreign countries. Consequently 
Einstein went to the English colony of Bermuda in order to 
apply to the American consul there. Einstein's visit to the island 
was a gala occasion. The consul gave a dinner in his honor and 
gave him permission to enter the United States as a permanent 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

Only then was Einstein able to announce Ms intention of 
becoming a citizen of the United States and to receive his first 
citizenship papers. He still had to wait five years before he could 
become a citizen. During this time he had to prepare himself 
for an examination on the American Constitution and the rights 
and duties of an American citizen. This he did with zeal. In 
1941 Einstein together with his stepdaughter Margot and his 
secretary, Miss Dukas, received American citizenship. He was 
asked to broadcast to the public the ideas and emotions which 
he felt at that moment. 

Thus this mighty tree with its roots was transplanted into new 
earth. What is his life here ? 

Various things from his Berlin apartment have been brought 
to his cottage, situated in the midst of a large garden on a sub- 
urban street. Here various rare objects such as adorned the 
living-room of a well-to-do Berlin family can be seen again, for 
example, Byzantine icons from Russia with their gold back- 
ground mysteriously darkened by incense. At Princeton Ein- 
stein actually lives like a strange guest just as he did in the upper 
middle-class household in Berlin. His profoundly bohemian 
nature has not changed even with his sixtieth birthday, which 
he celebrated at Princeton in 1939. 

He has no social life in the traditional meaning of the word. 
He takes no part in the series of dinners and receptions that are 
given by the faculty members in university communities. The 
conclusion should not be drawn, however, that he does not like 
to see people. On the contrary, he likes to receive people whom 
he can advise or help, with whom he can discuss some interesting 
subject or have a pleasant chat, or, what he prefers most of all, 
with whom he can play music together. He likes people who are 
ready and enthusiastic to accompany his violin playing on the 
bass viol, or cello, or the piano. Most of his visitors are not mem- 
bers of Princeton University or of the Institute for Advanced 
Study. His thoughts are always more occupied with things that 
are distant than with those that are near. Nevertheless, hardly 
an afternoon passes without a visitor from out of town coming 
to talk with him. 

Among these visitors are, first of all, physicists, philosophers, 
or even theologians who come to Princeton and want to use 
the occasion to obtain some impression of the man who has given 
their particular field so many new ideas. There is also the great 
number of refugees from Europe who seek advice and help from 
him. Sometimes there are people from Europe who stay with 


Einstein in his study at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, 1940 

Einstein in the study of his home in Mercer Street, Princeton, 19 38 

Einstein in the United States 

him for a few days because they are destitute. There are Zionists 
who want to hear his position on certain political questions. Even 
'members of the faculty of the University of Jerusalem come to 
him because they want him to intervene in their favor. There are 
writers, journalists, artists, who want to interest him in their 
work, hoping thereby to find a larger audience. The number of 
people who wish to see him is great, and Miss Dukas has to use 
a good deal of tact, energy and kindness to keep the atmosphere 
around him as quiet as he needs it. 

His attitude in this matter is the same as in all problems of 
social life; he feels himself very much apart from other people 
and he can never identify himself very strongly with others. 
He always has a certain feeling of being a stranger, and even a 
desire to be isolated. On the other hand, however, he has a great 
curiosity about everything human and a great sense of humor, 
with which he is able to derive a certain, perhaps artistic pleas- 
ure from everything that is strange and even unpleasant. Fi- 
nally, he is very good-natured and feels strongly the equality 
of all human beings. Perhaps he often says to himself: It is just 
the most unpleasant people with whom one should be least in- 
clined to be short, since they suffer most because no one wants 
to talk with them. 

As a result it is often the rejected inventors and other mis- 
understood geniuses who come to him. Ever since the time when 
he was employed in the patent office at Bern he has retained a 
certain pleasure in listening to the most senseless projects. All 
of them contain some element of human inventive faculty, even 
though in a distorted state; and for Einstein's active and pene- 
trating mind it has always been a pleasure to follow through a 
confused train of thought, to unravel it, and to find the errors 
in it. 

Occasionally he is also visited by physicists who are carrying 
on research on the basis of ideas that do not agree with those 
recognized as correct by present-day physicists. Such aberrant 
scientists can equally well be forerunners of important innova- 
tions or simply muddle-headed fellows. Einstein is more willing 
than others to listen to such physicists and to give careful con- 
sideration to their ideas, since it is always a pleasure for him to 
see the possible seeds of future ideas. At any rate, it is pleasant 
mental exercise for him to follow through logically a series of 
deductions, without being sure at the start whether they lead to 
any reasonable or useful conclusion. 

It sometimes happens, however, that some of these inventors 

Einstein: His Life and Times 

and scientists would feel insulted if he did not accept their con- 
clusions as correct. Just because he is possibly the only famous 
physicist who is willing to listen to them and to consider their 
ideas, all the hatred of an unrecognized physicist for those who 
have achieved fame occasionally concentrated itself against Ein- 
stein. This led to the paradoxical result that he was sometimes 
attacked and condemned most severely by the very persons to 
whom he had devoted the most attention. 

Since immigrating to America, Einstein has rarely spoken at 
public meetings. Organizations of all kinds have tried to induce 
him to do so, but he has spoken only when the subject con- 
cerned was one in which he was greatly interested. Neither has 
he attended scientific meetings very often. Only very few times 
has he discussed his actual researches in professional circles. Nor 
has he done it very readily, because he often felt that his work 
was not in line with the trend of research preferred by most 
physicists. His work has been devoted through many years to 
the construction of a "unified field theory" that would eventu- 
ally account for the subatomic phenomena too. He often thought 
that the researches with which he was occupied would not be 
received with much interest by those who believed that they 
should not divert their attention from the central task of today's 
physics, the interpretation of atomic phenomena by means of 
Bohr's quantum theory or his principle of complementarity. On 
some occasions, however, Einstein lectured at scientific con- 
gresses on his views on the present and future of physical sci- 
ence in general One such rare instance was his address in 
Philadelphia "On Physical Reality," in which the sentence oc- 
curs that forms the motto of this book. 

The world around Einstein has changed very much since he 
published his first discoveries. He began his work during ^the 
time of the German Kaiser in the environment characteristic 
of the German and Swiss petty bourgeoisie; he lived during the 
second World War in the last bulwark of democracy, the United 
States of America, He was able to make a substantial contribu- 
tion toward an earlier conclusion of the war than had been ex- 
pected, and is now anxious to help in making the peace a last- 
ing one. But his attitude to the world around him has not 
changed. He has remained a bohemian, with a humorous, even 
seemingly skeptical approach to facts of human life, and at the 
same time a prophet with the intense pathos of the Biblical tra- 
dition. He has remained an individualist who prefers to be 
unencumbered by social relations, and at the same time a fighter 


Einstein in the United States 

for^ social equality and human fraternity. He has remained a 
believer in the possibility of expressing the laws of the universe 
in simple, even though ingenious mathematical formulae, but 
at the same time doubting all ready-made formulae that claim 
to be the correct solution for human behavior in private and 
political life. 

When a visitor whom he has known in the old country comes 
to his home in Princeton, Einstein often says: "You are sur- 
prised, aren't you, at the contrast between my fame through- 
out the world, the fuss over me in the newspapers, and the isola- 
tion and quiet in which I live here ? I wished for this isolation 
all my life, and now I have finally achieved it here in Princeton." 

Many famous scholars live in the distinguished university 
town, but no inhabitant will simply number Einstein as one 
among many other famous people. For the people of Princeton 
in particular and for the world at large he is not just a great 
scholar, but rather one of the legendary figures of the twentieth 
century. Einstein's acts and words are not simply noted and 
judged as facts; instead each has its symbolic significance 
symbolic of his time, his people, and his profession* 

People in Princeton tell many anecdotes about Einstein. It 
Is related that one of his neighbors, the mother of a ten-year- 
old girl, noticed that the child often left the house and went to 
Einstein's home. The mother wondered at this, whereupon the 
child said: "I had trouble with my homework in arithmetic. 
People said that at number 112 there lives a very big mathema- 
tician, who is also a very good man. I went to him and asked 
him to help me with my homework. He was very willing, and 
explained everything very well. It was easier to understand than 
when our teacher explained it in school. He said I should come 
whenever I find a problem too difficult" The girl's mother was 
alarmed at the child's boldness and went to Einstein to apolo- 
gize for her daughter's behavior. But Einstein said: "You don't 
have to excuse yourself. I have certainly learned more from the 
conversations with the child than she did from me." 

I do not know, nor have I made any effort to check, whether 
this story is true. People tell it in different versions together 
with the much simpler story that in summer Einstein is often 
to be seen walking through the streets of Princeton in sandals 
without stockings, in a sweater without coat, eating an ice-cream 
cone, to the delight of the students and the amazement of the 

Since not only Einstein's personality but also his times and 


Einstein: His Life and Times 

environment should be described in this book, all such stories 
are certainly true. Even if they do not tell us anything that is 
factual about Einstein, they are a true description of the world 
in which he has lived. 

In 1945 Einstein retired from his position as professor at the 
Institute for Advanced Study. This change in his official status, 
however, did not mean any change in his actual work. He con- 
tinues to live in Princeton and to carry on research at the 



Aarau, 18-19, 293 

Aberration of starlight, 33 

Absolute motion, 34-5, 52; as expend- 
iture of divine energy, 36 

Absolute simultaneity, 217 

Absolute space, 34-5, 39-40, 52, 94 

Absolute time, 35, 39, 59 

Academic Assistance Council, Lon- 
don, 246 

Academic: science, 118; vanity, Ein- 
stein's lack of, 89 

Acceleration, 31; centrifugal, 93, 95; 
due to gravity, 95; from inertial and 
gravitational forces, 95; of labora- 
tory, 92-4; relative to fixed stars, 

Adler, Friedrich, 70, 75, 174 

Adler, Victor, 20 

Affidavit of support, 278 

Africa, West, 140 

Alembert, d\ 113, 234 

Aliotta, 46 

Alphonso XIII, King of Spain, 201 

American: citizenship of Einstein, 
294; clergymen, 288; democracy, 
285; Jews, 178; pragmatism, 44; 
professor, 267 

American Youth Congress, 245 

Ammonia, manufacture of, 121 

Ampere, Andre*, 163 

Analogies: between light and sound 
waves in nature, 33; of traditional 
philosophy, 26-7 

Anglican Church, 189 

Anglo-Saxons, 233 

Animism, of Newton's conception of 
force, 36 

Anti-intellectualism, 47 

Anti-mechanistic aspects, 250 

Anti-race, 230 

Anti-Semitism, in postwar Germany, 


Apennines, 17 

Apparatus, construction of, in 
Applied physics, 124 
Aprioristic knowledge, 282 
Aquinas, St. Thomas, 28 

Arabs: and Jews, 200-1; nationalism, 

Arago, D. F. J., 32 

Aristotle, 28 

Armistice (1918), 160 

Artillery, heavy, 73 

Aryan: physics, 252, 279; race, 228; sci- 
entists, 252, 255; spirit, 232 

Assassin, 241, 242 

Assyrian cuneiform inscription, 219 

Astronomer Royal of England, 140 

Astrophysicai Observatory at Pots- 
dam, 34, 118, 191 

Athenseum: Club, 189; Faculty Club, 

Atomic age, 289 

Atomic bomb, 66, 291 

Atomic nucleus, 287 

Atomic physics, 205 

Atoms, 208-9; artificial transmutation 
of, 66; as natural clocks, 60; be- 
havior of, 209; existence of, 105; 
hypothesis of, 105; mechanics of, 
209; spectral lines of, 60; structure 
of, 208 

Atrocity: propaganda, 194; stories, 


Auerbach, Berthold, 4 
Austria, 20, 99; character, 99; foreign 

policy of, 119, 150; professor in, 100; 

universities in, 100 

Austro-Hungarian monarchy, 100, 171 
Automatons, people as, 153 
Averroes, 28 
Axioms of geometry, 41 

Bach, J. S., 198, 279 

Bad Nauheim, 163 

Balkan countries, 275 

Bamberger, Louis, 266 

Bankruptcy of science, 45 

Bargmann, Valentin, 274 

Barracks, 10 

Battle of words, 121-2 

Bavarian Academy of Science, 237 

Bayreuth, 256 

Beethoven, 5; piano sonatas of, 7 


Belgium, 120, 239; royal family of, 

Bell Telephone Laboratories, 60 

Bergmann, Hugo, 84 

Bergmann, Peter, 274 

Bergson, Henri, 196 

Bermuda, 293 

Berlin, 7, 161-2, 204, 217, 222, 225, 
236, 269, 271; as center of science, 
169; Einstein's position in academic 
life of, 109; gutter literature, 5; 
Mayor of, 223; Philharmonic, 193; 
tormented atmosphere of, 167; Uni- 
versity of, 108, in, 124 

Berliner Borsenzeitung, 203 

Berliner TageUatt, 203 

Bern, 23, 50, 67, 92, 98, 293; Ein- 
stein's life in, 49; patent office at, 22 

Bernstein, Aaron, 13 

Besso, 50 

Bismarck, 5, 7-8, 225 

Bible, 4, 7; Einstein's respect for ethi- 
cal value of, 15; Old Testament, 14; 
Proverbs of Solomon, 14; religion 
of, 255, 280 

Bohemian Insane Asylum, 98 

Bohr, Niels, 209, 212, 215, 258, 273-4 

Bohr's complementary principle, 212- 

Bohr's theory, 210; in accord with 

radical positivism, 216 
Boiling-point, 171 
Bolshevism, 192, 204, 231; Einstein's 

theory as, in physics, 146, 159, 203; 

in Europe, 248; materialistic, 143 
Boltzmann, Ludwig, 20, 67; statistical 

law of, 69-70 

Bonaparte, Prince Roland, 196 
Born, Max, 211 
Bosch, Dr., 191 
Boston, 185 
Bouasse, 233 
Bourgeois: 258; intelligentsia, 146, 

259; life, 90 
"Brass hats," 292 
Brazil, 140; Sobral, 138 
Breuer, Josef, 176 
Bridgman, P. W., 42, 128 
Brod, Max, 84-5 
Broglie, Prince Louis de, 210-11 
"Broglie waves, de," 210 
Brown, Robert, 68 

Brownian motion, 67-8 
Briining, Heinrich, 225 
Brussels, 101 
Buber, Martin, 84 
Biichner, Ludwig, 13 
Bucky, Dr., 24 
Bunsen burner, 171 
Burtt, E. A., 36 

California Institute of Technology, 
224, 268 

Canada, 292 

Canterbury, Archbishop of, 189, 262 

Cantonal School, 18 

Capitalistic countries, 258 

Caputh, 223, 226, 269 

Carnap, R., 215 

Carnegie, Andrew, 106 

Carr, Wildon, 263 

Catholicism, 9 

"Chain reactions," 289 

Chamber music, 14 

China, 198 

Christ Church College, 269 

Christian: liberal churches, 286; reli- 
gion, 229; theology, 286 

Church, task of, 287 

Cleveland, O., 183 

Clock, 58, 60, 62 

Closed world, 34 

Coercion, Einstein's hatred of, 8 

Collaboration, 197 

College de France, 194-5 

College of the City of New York; 

Columbia University, 183, 290 

Comic journals, 176 

Commission pour la Coop&ration In- 
tellectuelle of the League of Na- 
tions, 154 

Common sense, 43, 62, 164, 260; ver- 
sus science, 142 

Communism, 46, 149, 231, 249, 250 

Communist Academy, 257 

Communist Party, 230, 236 

Compte, Auguste, 39 

Compulsory service, 227 

Congress: of German physicists at 
Prague, 215; of German Scientists 
at Vienna, 103; Solvay, 101-2 

Congressional Record, 184-5 

Conscientious objectors, 148 


Constancy: of the velocity of light, 58; 
principle of, 56 

Contraction and expansion of time, 61 

Control of atomic energy, 292 

Conventionalism, 41 

Cook, Dr. Frederick A., 184 

Co-operation, Einstein's attitude to, 

Copenhagen, 212, 273 

Copernican: system, 37, 46, 248; the- 
ory, 25, 28 

Copernicus, 26, 160, 258 

Copley Plaza Hotel, 185 

Corpuscular theory, 32, 34 

Cosmic religion, 284 

Cosmological problems, 134 

Criteria, empirical and logical, 43 

Curie, Mme, 101, 196 

Curved space, 129-30, 132, 134, 141, 

Cynicism, 120, 281-2 

Czech: Einstein disapproves dispar- 
agement of, 81; German attitude to- 
ward, 80; professors, 80; Republic, 
ioo, 171, 239; separate culture from 
Germans, 83; students in Einstein's 
classes, 81; university, 80, 171 

Davisson, Clinton J., 211 

Democracy, 249, 285; as Einstein's po- 
litical ideal, 156 

Democrats, 225, 230, 288 

Density of matter in the universe, 136 

Despair, attitude of, 46 

"Destructive'* Einstein philosophy, 

Deutsche Allgemeine Zeltung, 203 

Deutschland, Deutschland, uber alles, 

Devaluation of intellect, 48 

Dewey, John, 44, 47 

Dialectical materialism, 46, 257, 260 

Diffraction of light, 208 

Dilettantism, in; in science, 117 

Dingier, Hugo, 252 

Direct experiment, 175 

"Discovered fact," 202 

Discoveries of Einstein, 75 

Doppler effect, 61 

Dream world and Einstein's theory, 

Dreyfus affair, 197 

Du Bois-Reymond, 45 
Dukas, Helen, 293, 295 
Duration: actual and apparent, 62; of 
time, 62 

Economic crisis, 276 

Eddington, Sir Arthur, 138-9, 262, 

Edison, Thomas, 185 

Ehrenfest, Paul, 168 

Ehrenhaft, Felix, 175; wife of, 175 

Eighteenth century, 30, 36, 45, 113, 

Einstein, Albert: absence of academic 
vanity, 89; adept at art of conver- 
sation, 207; admitted to Polytechnic 
School in Zurich, 19; adviser of 
young men, 274; advocate of Jew- 
ish colonization, 199; alleged trip 
to Russia, 201; aloofness, 50, no; 
appointment to Prague, 77; arrival 
in New York, 178; artistic taste of, 
7; attends Roman Catholic elemen- 
tary school, 9; 

attitude toward: co-operation, no; 
politics, 148; military service, 245; 
religion, 9, 14, 280!; 
aversion to: drill, 153; formality, 79; 
orthodox religious practices, 15; 
personal relations, 89; pure research 
as a profession, no; 
avoidance of war and military serv- 
ice, 158; barrier against, 114; be- 
comes German citizen, 169; birth, 
6; birth of two sons, 23; bohemian 
nature, 124, 294; called Copernicus 
of twentieth century, 160; cam- 
paigns against, 158; "case," 99, 161; 
charm of his lectures, 90; childhood, 
6; colleagues at Prague, 80; con- 
firmation of his theory, 140; conver- 
sation of, 77; criticism of, 77; 
"cynicism" of, 287; Czech students 
in his classes, 81; decides physics, 
not mathematics, his main interest, 
19; definitions called lifeless, 256; 
departure from Munich, 15; depar- 
ture from Prague, 98, ioo; devoutly 
religious, 284; disapproves of dis- 
paraging Czechs, 81; 
dislike of: modern music, 279; play- 
ing soldier, 8; 



Einstein, Albert (continued} 
drops ether theory of light, 55; ef- 
fect, 61; eliminates absolute space, 
94; enfant terrible, 159, 163; equa- 
tion: E = mc 2 , 66, 165, 173; expec- 
tation for American youth, 186; ex- 
peditions to test his theory, 137; 
experimental tests of his theory, 
133; family background, 3; "film," 
190; follows spirit, not letter, of 
Mach, 78; for world government, 
292; French-speaking fluent, 196; 
influence on the development of the 
quantum theory, 69; given freedom 
of New York City, 184; good na- 
u 1 ^ 995 gymnasium in Munich, 
10 ; hatred of coercion, 8; hikes 
through Appennines to Genoa, 17; 
hypothesis on discontinuous nature 
of light, 73; idea of a personal God, 
285; impression of cynicism, 77; in 
China, 198; in comic journals, 176; 
m Czechoslovakia, 169; in England, 
187; in France, 194; in Holland, 
167; in Japan, 198; in Palestine, 198; 
in Pasadena, 224; in Spain, 198; 
instruction in the Jewish religion 
at the gymnasium, 15; intellectual 
interests, 12; 

interest in: construction of scien- 
tific apparatus, 24; mathematics, 13- 
14; philosophy, 50; scientific inven- 
tions, 24; social matters, HI; 
invitation to: Berlin, 106; United 
States, 176; 

Jewish religion officially adheres to, 
79; language of his deductions, 62; 
League of Nations and, 154; lec- 
ture at King's College, 187; letter 
to Roosevelt, 291; life in Bern, 49; 
life in Princeton, 293 f.; liking for 
jokes, 113, 170; love of Ms children, 
23; manner of speech, 281; mar- 
riage to Mileva Maritsch, 23; mathe- 
matical method of, 103; messenger 
of international understanding, 
204; middle-class life, 124; moves to 
Princeton, 270; naive questions, 
112; new discoveries, 75; new the- 
ory of gravitation, 127; no political 
party, 148; not a child prodigy, 8; 
not a killjoy, 179; not cut for team- 

Einstein, Albert (continued) 
work, 49; office of, 170; official in 
patent office, 21, 23; old-fashioned- 
ness, 7; opponents of, 162; origin 
in a provincial, semi-rural milieu, 
7; as a pacifist, 153; paradoxical re- 
lation to society, 76; passionate 
smoker, 187; personality portrayed 
in a novel as Kepler, 85; philosophy 
of science of, 215; plays Mozart, 
172; pleasure in thinking in soci- 
ety, 21 ; political attitude, 147; pop- 
ularizations vex, 190; position in 
academic life in Berlin, 109; profes- 
sional philosophers struggle against 
theories of, 30; prediction of, veri- 
fied, 140; 

predilection for: isolation, 49; 
Schiller, 8; 

presence in class destroys fellow 
students* respect for school, 17; 
pride in always having time, 119; 
principle of relativity, see Relativity; 
as a professor, 89; professor at Zu- 
rich, 79; professor extraordinary, 
76; as a public figure, 147; quantum 
theory, new, of, 73; receives Amer- 
ican citizenship, 294; relation to 
environment, in; relation to stu- 
dents, 89, 116; relativity principle 
founded, 54; religious feeling, 10; 
as representative of German science, 
184; respect for ethical value of Bib- 
lical tradition, 15; responsibility of 
fame, 147; revolt against customs of 
bourgeois life, 80; school like bar- 
racks, 10 ; science and philosophy, 
115; on science and religion, 285; 
on scientists in international under- 
standing, 155; second marriage, 124; 
sense of humor, 76, no, 178; skep- 
tical attitude toward school, 16; 
"skepticism" of, 281; social life of, 
294; solitary position in academic 
circles, 114; son of, 293; speculation 
on properties of light, 56; as spir- 
itual leader of Jews, 183; stays out 
of intrigues, 1x2; stepdaughters of, 
293; student at Zurich, 18; supporter 
of Zionism, 152; Swiss nationality 
of, 120; sword of, 100; symbolic sig- 
nificance of acts and words, 297; 



Einstein, Albert (continued) 

sympathy for all sufferers, 278; 
teacher in Berlin, 205; temporary 
teaching job at Winter thur, 22; 
theories: as arguments for religion, 
262!; as political weapons and tar- 
gets, 248; drawn into party and na- 
tional struggle, 122; idealistic or 
materialistic, 262; removed from 
materialism in mechanistic sense, 
254; truth not fiction, 161; 
on third term for Roosevelt, 159; 
trip to Vienna, 103 ; two hypotheses, 
57, 60, 64; undemocratic sound of 
some statements of, 157; uneasy in 
Berlin, 162; uniform as Austrian 
professor, 100; on unresolved con- 
tradictions in nature, 148; unsym- 
pathetic to Machian philosophy, 52; 
use of caustic words, 281; views on 
democracy, 157; views on military 
service, 243; violin lessons, 14; vital- 
ity of single lectures, 91; and War 
Registers International Fund, 159; 
wins Nobel Prize, 201; wish to re- 
nounce German citizenship, 17; 
women's clubs oppose entry into the 
United States, 126; Zionist move- 
ment helped by, 149 

Einstein, Elsa (second wife), 4, 123- 

Einstein, Hermann (father), 6-7, 17, 


Einstein, Maja (sister), 293 

Einstein, Mileva (first wife), 20-1, 23, 
109, 124, 129, 293 

Einstein, Paulina Koch (mother), 7 

"Einstein house, the," 222 

Einstein Tower, 191 

Electricity, 37, 64, 104 

Electromagnetic: fields, 39; light vi- 
brations in nature, 32; phenomena, 
64; waves, 37, 104 

Electromagnetism, 29 

Electrons, 65 

Elimination of force, 255 

Emancipating effect of science, 46 

Empiricists, 43, 143, 196 

Encyclopedia, Soviet, 256 

Energy, 41, 65-7, 73> ^ 

Enlightenment, 36, 254 

Eagels, R, 249, 260-1 

England, 159, 204 

English: blockade, 121; clergymen, 
288; cool-headed, 144; Enlighten- 
ment, 51-2, 251; science, 122, 188 

Enthusiasm for Einstein's theory, 179- 

Equation E = mc 2 , of Einstein, 66, 
l6 5> 173 

Equivalence: of energy and mass, 65; 
principle of, 96 

Eternal lif e as four dimensions, 264 

Ether, 32-4, 53-6, 168, 254, 257 

Ethical relativism, 249 

Etiquette, 200 

Euclidean: geometry, 129, 141; space, 
129, 206 

Europe, 20-1, 43, 52 

Existence, 283 

Expanding Universe, The, 240 

Expansion and contraction of time, 61 

Experimental physicists, 30 

Faraday, M., 165 

Farben, I. G., 191 

Farewell letter of Einstein to Acad- 
emy, 235 

Fascism, 46, 155, 248-51, 289 

Faust, 241 

Fermi, Enrico, 289-91 

Fichte, 46, 85 

Fight against Einstein's theory, 192 

Fine Hall, 268 

Finley-Freundlich, Erwin, 191 

Finns, 229 

Five-dimensional, 274 

Fixed stars, 34, 40, 92, 133 

Flexner, Abraham, 226, 266 

Florence, 293 

Flow of time, 61, 63 

Force (see also Law of force), 36, 41- 
2, 44, 95, 248, 255 ^ 

Force and Matter (Biichner), 13 

Foucault, 32; pendulum of, 40 

Four-dimensional: geometry, 206, 219; 
space, 130; as eternal life, 264 

France, 194, 204 

Franck, James, in 

Franco-Prussian War, 5 

Frankel, Dr. O., 169 

Franklin, Benjamin, 104, 224 

Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria, 77, 
79, 100 


Frederick the Great, 113 

Freedom of science, 227 

Free imagination, 282 

French: Academy, 196; patriots, 197; 

Revolution, 143; science, 122 
Freud, Sigmund, 175 
Friction, 33 
Friedmann, 240 
Fuld, Felix, 266 
Full-fledged particles, 212 
Fundamental system, 56, 60 

Galileo, 25-6, 28, 34, 95, 165, 258 

Gandhi, 158 

Gaustudentenbund, 252 

Gehrcke, E., 161 

General labor service, 176 

Geodesic lines, 129-30, 132 

Geometry, 10, 14, 16, 41, 78, 123, 128, 

Genoa, 17 

German: citizenship, 13, 169, 237; 
classics, 7; culture, 107, 120, 279; 
dialect, 228; elementary schools, 9; 
Empire, 119; enthusiasm for World 
War I, 119; government, 168, 228; 
intellectuals, 113, 145, 158; Jews, 
150, 152, 177; militarism, 120; mi- 
nority in Prague, 169; mission, 228; 
music, 7, 279; nation, 113; national- 
ists, 52, 161; Nazism of Sudeten, 
87; philosophy, 227, 250; public, 
159; physics, 25, 122; Reich, 106, 
113; Republic, 192, 194, 225, 269; 
ruling class, 3, 158, 279; science, 
103, 121-2, 163, 193; scholars, 5; 
spirit, 238; attitude toward Czechs, 
80; theory of relativity, 122; univer- 
sity, 43, 223, 227 , 280 

Germany, 8, 17, 120, 123, 145, 149, 
168, 187, 203-4, 206, 225, 259, 279 

Germer, L. H., 211 

God, 35-6, 208, 282, 285-6 

Goebbels, Joseph, 250 

Goethe, 5, 12; autobiography of, 241 

Goring, Hermann, 232 

Gothic style, 268 

Goteborg, 203 

Gottingen, University of, 206 

Gravity, 28-9, 96-7, 128, 134 

Great Britain, 292; see also England 

Gregory, David, 35 

Greek: drama, 140; in Einstein's gym- 
nasium, ii ; orthodox religion, 20, 
23, 155, 280 

Greenwich Observatory, 140 

Grossmann, Marcel, 22, 103 

Guggenheim, 106 

Haber, Fritz, 121, 237, 242 

Haeckel, Ernst, 287 

Hahn, Otto, 202, 289 

Haldane, Lord, 187-200 

Haller (director of Bern patent office), 


Hanisch, 168 

Hapsburg Monarchy, 169 

Harding, Warren G., 182 

Harnack, Adolph, 106 

Harvard University, 185 

Harvard Physics Laboratory, 185! 

Hasenohrl, Franz, 101, 166; principle 
of, 165 

Heat, 29, 37, 208 

Hebrew, 83, 237 

Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 152-3, 
162, 178, 182, 186, 242, 295 

Hegel, 249 

Heidelberg, 163, 192 

Heine, 4, 7 

Heisenberg, W., 211-13, 258 

Helium, 65 

Helmholtz, 20 

Hermann und Dorothea (Goethe), 12 

Hertz, Gustav, in 

Hertz, Heinrich, 20, 32, 37-9, 252, 255 

Heuristic point, 209-10 

Hibben, John Grier, 267 

Hilbert, David, 206 

Hindenburg, 225-6 

Hindus, 198 

Hiroshima, 67, 174 

Historic conception of physical real- 
ity, 274 

Hitler, Adolf, 150, 176, 191, 225-7, 
232, 236, 279 

Holland, 167-8 

Holy Land, 180 

Hostility to Einstein, 251 

Human heart, 61 

Human mind, 40-1 

Humanity, 250 

Hume, David, 50-2, 251 

Hungary, 20, 150, 171, 229 



Huygens, 32 
Hydrogen, 65 
Hylan, Mayor, 182 
Hypotheses, 57, 60, 64, 73, 160 

Idealism, 43, 143, 145, 248, 250, 257- 

8, 262-3, 282 

Idealistic Reaction against Science, 46 
Ignorabimus, 45, 47 
Ignoramus, 45 

Immigration regulations, 278 
Indecision of democratic states, 254 
Inertia (see also Law of inertia), 29- 

32, 34-5, 42, 93-4, 96, 133 
Inferior races, 80 
Infeld, Leopold, 273 
Influence of fixed stars on observable 

events, 92 
Institute for Advanced Studies in 

Princeton, in, 226, 265 
Instrumentalism, 47 
Intellectual: arrogance, 233; class, 5; 

front, 120-1; German, 158, 225; 

interests of Einstein, 12; sterility, 

supposed, of Jews, 231; tradition of 

Jews, 6; weapons, 120 
Intuition, 173 
Inventors, 23-4 
Italy, 16 
Ives, H., 60 

James, William, 44 

Japan, 198 

Japanese, 198, 229, 256 

Jaumann, Gustav, 78 

Jeans, Sir James, 13, 384 

Jehovah's Witnesses, 158 

Jerusalem, 265 

Jewish International, 231 

Jews, 4, 6-7, 14, 22, 78, 83-4, 145-6, 

*S<>-3> *5$, i77~8, 181-2, 199-201, 

228-30, 232, 238, 251-2, 255, 275, 

280, 286 

Joffe, A. F., 163, 258 
Jokes, ti3, 164, 176, 179 
Jordan, Pascual, 21 1> 251 
Judeo-Christian religious tradition, 

Junkers, 226 

Kafka, Franz, 84 

Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaf t, 106, xo8, 

Kant, Immanuel, 51-2, 114, 250, 286; 
philosophy of, as religion in Ger- 
many, 43, 107 

Kasner, Professor, 183 

Kepler, J, 85, 165 

Kieler Zeitung, 203 

Kindred, J. J., 184 

Kirchoff, Gustav, 20, 37, 39, 254-5 

Kleiner, 74-5 

Kobe, Japan, 198 

Kottler, Friedrich, 104 

Kraus, Oskar, 172-3 

Krieck, E., 228 

Ladenburg, R., no 
La Guardia, Fiorello, 184 
Lampa, Anton, 77-8, 101 
Langevin, Paul, 101, 194-5, 210 
Lanczos, Cornelius, 207, 216; equation 

of, 272 
Latin: in Einstein's gymnasium, n; 

lucidity, 233 

Laue, Max von, in, 193, 206 
Law of: conservation of energy, 41; 

inertia, 29-30, 35, 39-41, 127; force, 

29> 3* 57, 95; gravitation, 29 
Laws of: geometry, 29; mechanics, 29, 

34, 41, 45; motion, 64, 71; physics, 

38, 40, 216 

League of Nations, 154, 196 
Le Cocque, 234, 239 
Leiden, University of, 162, 168 
Leipzig, 193 
Lemaitre, Abbe*, 239 
Lenard, Philipp, 72-3, 162-4, 192-3, 

202, 232, 238, 252, 254, 259-60 
Lenin, 257, 260-1 
Lessing, 4 
Levi-Civita, 103 
Liberal: Christianity, 286; Judaism, 


Liberalism, 45-6, 52, 107, 248 
Light, 32-3, 69, 76, 97-8, 134, 208-9 
Lloyd George, 189 
Lodge, Sir Oliver, 141 
Logic(al), 43, 55; criterion of, 134; 

economy of, 105; empirical, 249; 

simplicity, 133 

Logical positivism, 215, 217, 282 
London, 138; Times f 140, 143-4 
Lorentz, H. A., 101 
Ludendorjff, Erich, General, 191 


LudendorfT, F. W. (astronomer), 191 
Lyman, T., Harvard physicist, 185 

Mach, Ernst, 38-40, 42-3, 47, 50, 52, 
78, 82, 92, 104-5, 133, 135, 176* si 1> 
213, 215, 217, 254-5, 2 57> 260 

MacLeish, Archibald, 246 

Madmen, 98 

Madrid, 265 

Magyar domination, 21 

Maimonides, 28 

Manhattan Project, 291 

Manifesto of Ninety-two German In- 
tellectuals, 120 

Mann, Erika, 279 

Mann, Klaus, 279 

Margin, 212-13 

Maritsch, Mileva, see Einstein, M. 

Married philosophers, 126 

Marseille, 201 

Marx, Karl, 46, 160, 260-1 

Marxism, 227, 232, 254-5 

Masaryk, President, 169, 171 

Mass, 65-7 

Mass Suggestion of the Relativity The- 
ory, The, 167 

Master race, 80 

Materialism, 13, 44, 46, 143, 225, 248, 
250, 254, 262 

Materialism and Empiriocritidsm, 

Mathematics, 13, 19-20, 26, 30, 37, 61- 
2, 82, 103, 206 

Matter, 136, 210 

Maupertuis, 234 

Maxirnov, A., 145, 258-9 

Maxwell, James Clerk, 20, 32, 39, 67 

Mayer, Walter, 207, 273 

Meaning of general statements, 43 

Meaningless: conglomeration of 
words, 215; problems, 47 

Measuring: rod, 63; physical opera- 
tions, 215 

Mechanics, 25-6, 28-30* 3 2 ~4 3&~7> 
45~6> 54 5$ 64, 164, 249-50, 254, 

Medieval: philosophy, 30; remnants 
of, in mechanical physics, 34, 37, 39 

Meitner, Lise, in, 289 

Mercury, 133 

Merry-go-round, 31, 93 

Metabolic processes, 61 

Metaphor of the flow of time, 65 

Metageometrical concepts, 47 

Metaphysical: stage, 39; foundation 
of science, 42-3; reality, 48, 63, 216; 
view, 215-16, 259; touch, 245 

Michelson, A. A., 34, 225; experiment 
of, 34, 53-4 

Microscope, 68 

Middle Ages, 25, 30, 34, 46 

Milan, 15, 17 

Militarism, 121; feeling of, 148 

Military service, 245 

Milky Way, 135-6 

Mill, J. S., 249 

Millerand, Alexandra, 176 

Millikan, R. A., 224-5, 268, 288 

Minkowski, Hermann, 20, 131-2, 206 

Misunderstood geniuses, 295 

Mitin, M., 261 

Molecules: direct proof of existence 
of, 67-8; number of, in unit volume 
of matter, 68 

Moltke, 7 

Momentum, 95 

Monarchist groups, 230 

Moscow, 20 

Motion: violent, 27; inertial, 28-9; of 
celestial bodies, 28; annual appar- 
ent, 34; absolute, 34; God as ulti- 
mate originator of, 36; as expendi- 
ture of divine energy, 36; definition 
of, 42 

Mount Wilson Observatory, 224 

Movement: of celestial bodies, 28; in 
a straight line, 30; absolute, 31; of 
molecules, 67; irregular, 68 

Moving: bodies, 69; trains, 64, 92 

Mozart; 5, 8, 14, 172, 198, 279, 282 

Munich, 6, 8-9, 15-16, 123, 252 

Music, 253, 279 

Mysterious Universe, The, 13 

Mystical: sense of reality, 46; interpre- 
tation, rejected by Bohr, 273; feel- 
ing, 284 

Mystics, 258 

Nationalism, 149, 170 

National Socialists (see also Nazi), 
1 66, 177, 249, 160; student associa- 
tion, 253 

Natural: measure of time, 34; position, 
27; science, 25-6 



Naturalism, 13 

Nature, 263, 283; animate and inani- 
mate, 26; of force, 42 

Nazi: 229; storm troops, 242; physi- 
cist, Lenard, 260; revolution, 270 

Neckar River, 192 

Nernst, Walter, 85, 101-2, 106-7, in > 
121, 234 

Neurath, O., 215 

Neutron, 65-6, 289 

New theories: compared to beautiful 
dresses, 137; absurdity of, 161 

Newton, Sir Isaac, 25, 28-9, 31-2, 34- 
7, 45, 54, 56-7, 59, 64, 92, 94, 165, 
189, 248, 259 

Newtonian mechanics, validity of, 
doubted, 56 

New York, 7, 180-2, 280; harbor, 262 

Nietzsche, F., 46, 50, 126, 249 

Nineteenth century, 36-7, 40-1, 45, 
47-8, 69, 94, 128, 217, 254 

Nobel, Alfred, 202 

Nobel prize, 162, 201 

Nohel, E., 82 

Non- Aryans, 228 .; wives of, 230 

Non-Euclidean space, 206 

Non-non-Aryans, 229 

Nordic-Aryan: race, 150, 160; philoso- 
phy, 1 60 

Nordmann, Charles, 195 

Nucleus, 65-6, 209; forces of, 65-6; en- 
ergy of, 66; atomic, 289; uranium, 

Observation, general laws of physics 
as summaries of, 38 

O'Connell, Cardinal, 262 

Old Testament, 15 

Operational definitions, 42, 128, 216 

Oppenheimer, R., 292 

Optical phenomena: applied to, by 
mechanical laws, 29, 35; explanation 
of, 32, 54> 56; experiments, 96, 254 

Optics, 37 

O'Rahilly, A., 263 

Organismic conception, 20, 25; tran- 
sition from, to mechanistic, 26 

Organismic: physics of the Middle 
Ages, 27-8, 46; philosophy, 30 

Oriental Music, 198 

Orthodox Judaism, 85 

Ostend, 234 

Oxford, 217, 269, 282; patriotic youth 
of, 195 

Packing effect, 66 

Pacifism, 159, 162, 231 

Painleve, Paul, 194-5 

Palestine, 151, 178, 198-9, 280 

Papen, Franz von, 225 

"Paper Swiss," 22 

Paris, 195, 197, 265 

Particles, statistical behavior of, 67 

Pasadena, 224, 226, 268, 270 

Patent Office at Bern, 22-3 

Pendulum, 58, 60, 62 

Perrin, Jean, 69 

Perry, R. B., 47 

Personal God, 285-6 

Philadelphia, 296 

Philosophers, professional, struggle 
against Einstein, 30 

Philosophical Institute of the Commu- 
nist Academy, 258 

Philosophy, 25-6, 30, 37, 43-4, 105, 
145, 160, 200, 206, 248, 257-8 

Photochemical equivalence law, 98 

Photoelectric: effect, 208; law, 209 

Photographic: film, 24; plates, 139 

Photon, 72, 206, 209; violet, 73 

Phototelegraphy, 219 

Physical content of a theory, 249 

Physical reality, 213, 218, 296 

Physicists, 30, 35, 160, 162, 188 

Physics, 19-20, 25-30, 45, 62, in, 143, 
164, 252 

Pick, Georg, 82, 103 

Peirce, C. S., 43, 47 

Place of mind in nature, 263 

Planck, Max, 70-3, 101, 106-7, 111-14, 
163-4, 209, 213, 215, 236, 241 

Platform, revolving, 33 

Pocket: compass, 12; watch, 58 

Podolsky, B., 273 

Poincar4 Henri, 40-3, 47, 50, lot, 128 

Poland, 99, 123, 150 

Political: ideologies, 248!; physicists, 
238; purge, 230 

Polytechnic School, Zurich, 19-22, 98 

Popper-Lynkeus, 176 

Popular Boofys on Natural Science^ 13 

Popular taste in New York, 181 

Popularizations, 190 

Popularizers, 172 


Positivism, 39, 42-4, 47-8, 52, 215 , 

274, 283, 287 

Potsdam, 118-19, 191, 223, 269, 272 
Pragmatism, 42-4, 47, 215, 228 
Prague, 43, 77, 83-4, 92, 99, 109, 119, 

161, 169, 215 

Prediction of Einstein verified, 140 
Presence of God in everything, 35 
Pressburg, 239 
Princeton University, no, 183, 225, 

270, 272, 290, 293 f. 
Principle of the excluded middle, 229 
Privatdozent, 75 
Prize Contest of $5,000, 190-1 
Pro-Fascist interpretation of relativity, 


Progress, 45, 246 
Projectiles, 33, 73 
Proletarian ideology, 259 
Propagation of light through ether, 


Protestant churches, liberal, 288 
Proton, 65-6 
Prussia, 3, 5, 7, u, 16, 113, 168, 205, 


Prussian Academy of Science (Royal), 

107-8, 123-4, 161, 198, 219, 225, 

234 ., 241 

Psychoanalysis of Freud, 176 
Psychological: economy, 105; situation 

in Europe, 144; situation of new 

refugees, 278 
Psychology, 55; of Jews, 151; political, 

1 60 

Public, the, 142 
Pupin, Michael, 183 
Purge of German universities, 227!, 

Pythagorean theorem, 58 

Quaker, 138, 158 

Quantum theory, 69; Einstein's new, 


Quantum: of radiation, 72; mechan- 
ics, 212 

Race theory applied to mathematics, 
etc., 230 

Racial: purging in German universi- 
ties, 227!, 230; dependence of 
physics, 252 

Radical, 246 

Radioactive: substances, 208; atoms, 


Rate of a time-keeper, 60 
Rathenau, Walter, 190-1, 203-4 
Rationality of nature, 283 
Reactionary, 292 
Real: 41; different senses of, 132; 

world, 215 
Red Army, 100 
Redemption of Tycho Brake* The, 


Reflection and refraction of light, 32, 

5 6 

Refugee, 277, 294; psychological situ- 
ation of, 278, 286; scholars, 276 

Refutation of materialism, 258 

Reichswehr, 225 

Reign of Relativity, The (Haldane), 

Reinhardt, M., 205 

Relation: between cause and effect, 51; 
of science and religion, 280 

Relativism, 249 

Relativity, 32, 56-9, 62-3, 67, 69, 92, 
94, 118, 122, 131, 141, 217, 232, 238, 
251, 259; principle in Newtonian 
mechanics, 30; fundamental hy- 
potheses of, 53; Einstein founds 
principle of, 54; of time, 57, 61, 63; 
idealism surrounding, 145; as Bol- 
shevism in physics, 146; regarded 
as Jewish, 146; philosophical system 
inconsistent with, 160; only twelve 
people in world understand, 179; in 
Congressional Record , 184; not in- 
fluencing religion, 190 

Religion, 229, 248, 280; Einstein at- 
tracted to tradition, 9; Einstein's 
feeling of, 10; Einstein's change in 
attitude for, 14; Einstein's aversion 
for orthodox practices of, 15; Kant- 
ism as, in Germany, 43, 107; ortho- 
dox, 149; not influenced by rela- 
tivity, 190; Einstein's theories as 
argument for, 262 .; Einstein's 
view on, 282; ritual of, 287 

Rembrandt, 265 

Renan, Ernst, 196 

Research: institutions in Germany, 
106; as a profession, no 

Revolution: first great, in physical 
thought, 25; second, 26, 28; of heav* 


Revolution (continued) 
enly bodies, 34; of quantum the- 
ory, 69; from the right, 192; Nazi, 
177, 270 

Key, Abel, 46 

Ricci, 103 

Rockefeller, 106 

Roman Church, 258 

Roman Inquisition, 26 

Romanticism, 180 

Roosevelt, President F. D., 290-2; Ein- 
stein's letter to, 291 

Rosen, N., 273 

Royal Society, 137 f. 

Ruess, II-I2 

Rumania, 150 

Russell, Bcrtrand, 215, 246, 277 

Russia, 97, 100, 145, 149-5? 3C 9 2 > 20 3" 
4, 232, 256 f., 275 

Russian Academy of Science, 261 

Rust, Bernard, 233 

Rutherford, Sir Ernest, 101, 209, 233, 

Samuel, Viscount Herbert, 200, 248 

Santayana, George, 227 

Skepticism, 281 

Schaffhausen, 22 

Schiller, Priedrich, 4-8, 12 

Schleicher, 226 

Schlick, Moritz, 193, 215 

School: Einstein's compared to bar- 
racks, 10 ; at Winter thur, 22 

Schopenhauer, 50 

Schrodinger, Brwlr^ 112-13, 210-11, 

Schweitzer, Albert, 158 

Science, 280; at end of nineteenth cen- 
tury, 45; bankruptcy of, 45; de- 
feated, 6 1 ; religion and philosophy, 
115; against common sense, 142; 
invaded by unrest, 143 

Scientific: apparatus, 24; viewpoint 
versus philosophical, 25 

Scientists: many unable to grasp 
meaning of relativity, 141; part in 
international understanding, 155 

"Secret 1 * of the atomic bomb, 291 

Seismic waves, 33 

Semantics, 63-4, 131 

Semitic: Arabs, 229; race, 330 

Serbia, 30, 23 

Shakspere, 12 

Shanghai, 198 

Shapley, Harlow, 136, 292 

Shaw, G. B., 189-90 

Simultaneity, 64 

Slavic peasant, 104 

Slovakia, 239 

Social Democrats, 20, 75, 168, 230 

Social: matters, Einstein's interest in, 

ii ; life of Einstein, 294 
Socialism, 156 
Socialists, 162 

Society of French Physicists, 196 
Solar eclipse: total, 97, 137; expedi- 
tion, 138-40, 159; 190 
Soldiers: Einstein's dislike of playing 

at, 8; for peace, Jews as, 156 
Solvay Congress, 101-2 
Sophisticated forms of anti-intellec- 
tual, 47 

Sorbonne, 197, 265 
Sorel, 249 
Sovereignty of nations, 292 

Sound, 33 

South America, 204 

Soviet: political philosophy, 145; 
spokesmen, 146; doctrines, 256; phi- 
losophers, 257, 260 

Space, 57, 63, 129-30, 135-6, 141, 177, 
179, 256 

Spain, 198, 201 

Spectral lines of moving atoms, 60 

Spencer Lecture, Herbert, 217 

Stark, Johannes, 238 

Stars, 139; sec also Fixed stars 

State Opera House, Berlin, 237 

"Steering" waves, 210 

Straight lines, 41 

Structure of the atom, 208 

Students, 20; Einstein's relation to, 
89, 206 

Stumpf, Professor, 115 

Subatomic particles, 210-12 

Sudeten Germans, 84, 169-70 

Sum of angles: of a triangle, 41; 
more than two right angles, 129 

Superiority of the German nation, em- 
phasis on, 114 

Superstitions, 45 

Swabians, 4, 6, 124 

Sweden, King of, 203 

Swedish Academy of Science, 201-2 



Switzerland, 21-2, 99, 120, 126, 184, 

293 ... 
Symbolic significance of Einstein's 

acts and words, 297 
System of reference, 63-4 
Szilard, Leo, 290-1 

Talmud, 255-6 

Technical Institute of Brno, 78 

Tel-Aviv, 200 

Tensor analysis, 206 

Teutonic speculation, 233 

Theological: reflections of Newton, 
35; Seminar at Princeton, 287 

Theology, 264, 285 

Theorems, geometrical validity of 
(Poincare), 41 

"Thing-in-itself," 250 

Thompson, Sir J. J., 141, 189 

Thought, pure, 143 

Time, 57 , 256; as measuring device, 
60; contraction and expansion of, 
61; flow of, 61; duration of, 62; in- 
terval, 63; Einstein's pride in hav- 
ing, 1 1 8, and space disappear, 


Timiryasev, A. K., 259 
Tolstoy, 275 
Transformation of mass into energy, 


Treaty: of Versailles, 121; of Rapallo, 

Twentieth century, 46, 48, 69, 180, 216, 


Uhland, 5 

Ulm, Einstein's birthplace, 6 

Ultimate reality behind phenomena, 

4 8 

Understanding, 37, 44 
Underworld, 225 
Unified field theory, 218, 296 
United States, 276, 292; see also Amer- 


United States Naval Academy, 34 
Unity of field and matter, 273 
Universe as an island in empty space, 

Urania Society, 169, 172 
Uranium: fission, 202; nucleus, 289; 
bombs, 289 

Velocity: of earth through ether, 34, 
53; of light, 53, 55, 57, 66; con- 
stancy of, 58; of the laboratory, 59, 

Versailles Treaty, 243 

Vibrations of molecules, 33 

Vienna, 20, 104, 174, 215; University 
of, 43; Ministry of Education of, 
99; Einstein's trip to, 103 

Vienna Circle (Wiener Krels), 215 

Violin, Einstein's lessons on, 14 

Volfyische Beobachter, 232 

Voltaire, 113, 234 

Volume of space, 136 

Wagner, Richard, 256 

Walsh, David, 184 

War criminals, 121 

Wave: theory, 32, 98; length, 134; 

mechanics, 211 
Weber, W., 163 

Weizmann, Chaim, 153, 177-8, 182 
Weltanschauung, 227, 258 
Western culture, decline of, 145 
Weyland, Paul, 159, 161 
Whitehead, A. N., 140, 189 
Wien, Wilhelm, 233 
Wiener Kreis, see Vienna Circle 
Wigner, Eugene, 290 
Wilhelm I, Emperor, 7 
Wilhelm II, Emperor, 106, 113, 280, 


Wilson, Woodrow, 159-60 
Winteler, 293; see also Einstein, Maja 
Winternitz, Maurice, 83 
Winterthur, 22 

Wirth, Catholic Chancellor, 192 
World's Fair, 280 
World War I, 84, 97, 119, 147, 151, 

158, 162, 165, 230 
World War II, 169, 289 

X-rays, 21 1 

Yardstick, 58-9; length of, 63 
Yiddish, 83, 228 

Zionists, 84-5, 151, 201, 280, 295; 
movement, 149, 159, 177; leaders 
of, 182 

Zurich, 20, 6r, 74-6, 92, 99-100, 107, 
124; Einstein student at, 18; Uni- 
versity of, 74-5; canton of, 



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